Clallam County to fund mental health crisis center

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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EDITOR'S NOTE — This story has been modified to clarify that Peninsula Behavioral Health has not received financial commitments from the city of Port Angeles or the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe for the mental health crisis respite center in Port Angeles.

The original story may have given an erroneous impression. Peninsula Behavioral Health Executive Director Peter Casey said the city and the tribe are supportive of the program and know that it is needed in the community.

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has approved a contract with Peninsula Behavioral Health to establish a mental health crisis respite center in Port Angeles.

The three commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the $238,260 contract with the mental health provider to renovate a portion of an Eighth Street building and to operate the space as a three-bed respite center for adults in need of psychiatric hospitalization.

The crisis center will open in the southwest corner of the St. Vincent De Paul building at 112 E. Eighth St. in September.

The contract with the county runs through September 2014.

“In a way, the county is providing the start-up funds,” said Jude Anderson, Clallam County treatment coordinator and contracts administrator.

“Peninsula Behavioral Health is expected to get other partners on the continuing operation of the center. . . . The idea is there will be multiple community partners.”

The respite center will become the only psychiatric center on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“We really haven't had sort of that safety option for those folks in the mental health community in the past,” Anderson said.

The nearest psychiatric ward is the Kitsap Adult Inpatient Unit in Bremerton.

The respite center will not be a detox facility.

It will be a mental health crisis center that will alleviate pressure on Olympic Medical Center, which treats psychiatric patients in its intensive care unit.

“Two years ago, we boarded six people at OMC,” said Peter Casey, Peninsula Behavioral Health executive director, in the commissioners' work session Tuesday.

“Last year, we boarded 34 people at OMC.”

Psychiatric wards are being reduced around the state at a time that boardings are on the rise.

Pending state legislation would expand the Involuntary Treatment Act to cover those in “imminent danger to self or others” to those who are “likely in danger to self or others.”

“What that's going to do is increase the number of hospitalizations,” Casey said.

Future support

Casey said he has verbal commitments from OMC, the city and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe to help support the center in the future. (The commitments from the city and Lower Elwha do not include financial assistance.)

“We anticipate speaking with Jamestown [S'Klallam tribe] and also the city of Sequim,” he added.

The respite center will qualify Peninsula Behavioral Health patients for Medicaid assistance. Payments would be shared by stakeholders based on the percentage of their contribution.

“This is happening, really, at a pretty good time,” Casey said.

Peninsula Behavioral Health will hire four full-time and two half-time residential aides to staff the center.

An advanced registered nurse practitioner, registered nurse and two aides will be on call, according to the contract.

Commissioner Mike Doherty asked Casey to involve state Rep. Steve Tharinger, a former Clallam County commissioner from Sequim, in the project.

“He really knows the issue,” Doherty said.

Anderson said in a telephone interview that there are several advantages to having a crisis center in Port Angeles, including patient proximity to loved ones and the availability of local resources.

Mental health patients often struggle with co-occurring chemical dependency, she added.

Casey said Peninsula Behavioral Health already has received bids for the renovation of the building.

A separate section of the building will be used to house Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics.

“My idea in getting this started was to increase visibility and credibility,” Casey said of the respite center.

“We've been talking about this issue in this community for a long time.”


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at

Last modified: March 28. 2013 10:36AM
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