Gov. Inslee joins Secretary Meneses, DSHS officials to celebrate opening of newest behavioral health facility

Flanked by City of Tukwila Council member Thomas McLeod and state Sen. Karen Keiser, from left, Gov. Jay Inslee cuts the ribbon to commemorate the opening of Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health in Tukwila. DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses and Tukwila Council member Kate Krueller, from left, are also pictured. (Photo courtesy Jim Kopriva)

(TUKWILA) — Governor Jay Inslee joined Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Jilma Meneses and other DSHS officials to cut a ceremonial ribbon Nov. 21 at the state’s newly acquired behavioral health facility, Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health, in Tukwila.

In response to the growing demand for behavioral health services, especially for people in jail awaiting competency services, DSHS acquired the former Cascade Behavioral Health facility late this summer for $29.9 million.

Inslee, who announced the vision for transforming behavioral health in 2018, opened the event with remarks on the acquisition of the former privately owned hospital and the state’s continued effort to add more bed capacity for those in need of mental health services. Meneses and Olympic Heritage CEO Dan Davis also spoke.

“When we get people treatment, they get better. When we get people treatment, they go back to work. When we give people treatment, they go back to their families. When we give people treatment, they go back to their churches and their communities,” Inslee said. “Behavioral health works in the state of Washington.”

DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses thanks Olympic Heritage staff for the hard work and dedication that went into opening the facility in such a short amount of time.

Meneses and Davis lauded Behavioral Health Administration Assistant Secretary Kevin Bovenkamp ​and BHA employees for their monumental efforts in swiftly staffing and operationalizing the facility in such a short time.

“I want to thank our dedicated BHA staff not only for choosing the name, but for continuing to care for our very complex patients with respect and dignity,” Meneses said. “The staff serving at our state hospitals are special human beings; they return every day despite the challenges that come with caring and treating people who usually have severe disorders. Not just anyone can do their work, so we must recognize our employees for their extraordinary servant leadership.”

Post-acquisition, DSHS implemented various maintenance upgrades, including adding interior cameras and upgraded IT infrastructure as well as installing various ligature-resistant fixtures throughout the facility. Civilly committed patients from state hospitals were relocated to Olympic Heritage last month, alleviating pressure on state hospitals for people awaiting competency services in jail.

Olympic Heritage, set against the scenic backdrop of Olympic National Park, boasts six wards with a total of 135 patient beds at full capacity. About 200 staff members were hired to work at the facility between August and September, including many employees who were formerly employed by Cascade.

Meneses welcomes Council member McLeod to the event while Behavioral Health Administration Assistant Secretary Kevin Bovenkamp, left, looks on.

Situated near the awe-inspiring Olympic National Park, spanning nearly a million acres, the Tukwila property reflects the region’s diverse ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains and old-growth temperate rainforests. This natural splendor symbolizes the commitment to diversity in the provision of mental health services.

The opening of Olympic Heritage signifies a significant achievement for DSHS, marking one among several new facilities currently in development. DSHS is on track to open a facility at the Maple Lane campus near Rochester in winter of 2024 for individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity. Maple Lane’s Oak Unit​, operational since March, has already received civil patients from Western State Hospital, opening up bed availability at the state hospital for forensic patients.