State turns unexpected hospital closure into opportunity to address urgent behavioral health needs

The former Cascade Behavioral Health facility is located at 12844 Military Rd S in Tukwila. (Photos by Jim Kopriva)

Thursday, August 10, 2023
DSHS Office of Communications
Tyler Hemstreet
tyler.hemstreet@dshs.wa.gov
(564) 201–0027

(TUKWILA) — As part of an urgent effort to serve the increasing numbers of people waiting for behavioral health services, including those in jail awaiting competency services, the Department of Social and Health Services finalized an agreement to lease and purchase the former Cascade Behavioral Health facility in Tukwila.

The purchase of the vacant behavioral health hospital for $29.9 million will add about 100 beds. The department will take a phased approach of making the beds available to patients. The facility operated as a privately-owned psychiatric hospital until it was shuttered last month.

“The closure of this hospital was tough news, but it also presented us with a sudden and unexpected opportunity,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “We have been working diligently to serve rapidly growing numbers of patients needing behavioral health care, but one of our biggest constraints is the amount of time it takes to build and staff new facilities. I appreciate the work of the department to act quickly so the state could prepare a competitive bid. We will move as quickly as we can to prepare the hospital to serve patients.”

“Although we currently have several projects to add bed capacity in various stages of construction and development, we believe this was a prime opportunity for us to add immediate capacity in a location that is easily accessible for staff, patients, and their families,” DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses said. “The demand for behavioral health services remains high, and we will continue to examine a wide range of options to help us positively impact the needs of people awaiting behavioral health treatment.”

DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses, center, looks over the floorplan of the former Cascade Behavioral Health facility with Dr. Brian Waiblinger, chief medical officer for the Office of the Secretary, right; Kevin Bovenkamp, assistant secretary of the Behavioral Health Administration, center left; Bob Hubenthal, Capital Programs director for the Facilities, Finance and Analytics Administration, second from left; and Rich Pannkuk, chief financial officer for FFA.

The department will officially take possession of the building Aug. 15, and will work toward moving in civilly committed patients from the state hospitals in the near future, which frees capacity at the state hospitals for people in jail awaiting competency services.

Before patients are transferred into the new hospital, DSHS will make maintenance upgrades, including the addition of interior cameras on the wards and installing the appropriate IT infrastructure.

Inslee reiterated the state’s commitment to strengthening Washington’s behavioral health system in his State of the State address in January. He also noted the need to reform the competency services system to ensure people can receive behavioral health care outside of the criminal justice system.

Over the past nine fiscal years, requests for DSHS to provide inpatient evaluations and competency restoration services have increased by roughly 145 %. These large and unpredicted increases in the number of county criminal court orders have exceeded the large number of beds already added to the forensic system. The Legislature approved his request-legislation which initiates several reforms to improve access to care, provide more options for services and diversion outside the court system, and improve efficiency.

A patient room at the former Cascade Behavioral Health facility.

Multiple new facilities are currently in the process of being developed and opened. DSHS is creating a new facility for people found not guilty by reason of insanity, which is scheduled to open later this fall at the Maple Lane campus near Rochester.

The Oak Cottage Civil Center for Behavioral Health at Maple Lane started receiving new patients from Western State Hospital in March, which also frees up bed space at the hospital for forensic patients.

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