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Will proposed mental health hospital in Lacey accept more serious cases?

Olympian - 10/12/2017

Oct. 11--Conflicting expectations for a mental health hospital proposed for Lacey now has the state asking: Will the hospital serve all patients, including involuntary commitments, or not?

US HealthVest is planning to bring an 115-bed mental health hospital to an existing building in Lacey near Huntamer Park. The state Department of Health has approved a 75-bed proposal for that location, but the company applied to the state earlier this year to add 40 more beds.

It was during the review of the 40-bed application that state officials noticed something: Statements in the application appear to be inconsistent with a recent city of Lacey conditional use permit process, which approved the hospital permit on the basis that certain mental health patients would not be accepted by the hospital.

State health officials say that does not meet the requirements of a certificate of need.

"Certificate of need requires that all residents of the service area have access to the proposed health service or services, including involuntary treatment services," a letter to US HealthVest from the Department of Health reads.

The state is now requesting clarification from US HealthVest under what it calls a "pivotal unresolved issue." It was published as a legal notice in Tuesday's Olympian. HealthVest officials need to supply the clarifying information to the state by 5 p.m.Oct. 16.

HealthVest President and Chief Executive Dr. Richard Kresch said Tuesday they are prepared to answer the state's questions. He also defended the 40-bed application, adding there is "no inconsistency."

Asked if a 75-bed hospital is as financially feasible as a 115-bed hospital, Kresch said the company is still committed to operating a 75-bed hospital.

"We think we're a better and more efficient hospital at 115 beds, but it's still a viable project," he said. "There's no change in that regard."

A city of Lacey official could not be reached Tuesday.

The state's letter to HealthVest documents what appear to be conflicting statements. For example, the state contends HealthVest stated the following about the hospital:

"South Sound Behavioral intends to operate a program for the involuntarily detained. Under state law, (those) beds are used for persons who, as a result of a mental disorder, present a danger to self, other or property, and/or are unable to provide for their basic needs of safety or health."

Yet city of Lacey staff asked HealthVest to meet several conditions as part of the conditional use permit process, including that "the hospital will not accept patients who should be going to a facility like Western State Hospital," the state-run psychiatric hospital in Lakewood that evaluates crime suspects' mental health.

The state wants HealthVest to explain how it "intends to provide access to all patients within the counties identified, including patients who might be a danger to self or others."

Certificate of need analyst Karen Nidermayer declined Tuesday to forecast how the process might shake out.

PROVIDENCE APPEALS

While the state has approved HealthVest's 75-bed proposal, Kresch said Providence St. Peter Hospital and Fairfax Behavioral Health, which have proposed their own mental health hospital in Lacey, continue to appeal the state's decision.

The decision has been upheld twice by the Department of Health, Kresch said, but the "legal proceedings continue."

Kresch said that process has slowed down the project.

In a statement released Tuesday, Providence explained why it continues to appeal the state's decision.

"Since the beginning of the US Healthvest's certificate of need process for psychiatric beds in our community, Providence has had serious doubts about their charity care policies and ability to serve all residents in our five-county service area.

"US Healthvest has a poor record of collaborating with other service providers in regions where they have administered mental health facilities, and they have had a pattern of building their operations, selling them, and moving on."

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403, @rolf_boone

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(c)2017 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)

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