The Washington State Department of Health has given its stamp of approval to a plan build a 120-bed psychiatric hospital on the Allenmore Hospital campus in Tacoma.
In approving the certificate of need for the Alliance for South Sound Health, the Health Department rejected the competing application from a California company, Signature Healthcare Services LLC, for a similar 120-bed facility near Snake Lake Park on South 19th Street.
MultiCare Health System and CHI Franciscan Health System, Tacoma-based competitors in most health care areas, formed the alliance in 2014 to jointly create a psychiatric hospital in the county. The two garnered much local support from Pierce County medical providers, law enforcement officials, and civic and business leaders.
Signature had urged the Health Department, which controls the construction of major health care facilities statewide through its certificate of need process, to approve both applications, citing the growing need for mental health care in Pierce County.
The Health Department’s certificate of need officials were unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.
Pierce County ranks low among urban counties in the nation in providing mental health care services for its residents. The county has 2.8 mental health care beds per 100,000 residents. The national average is 26.1 beds per 100,000 residents.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring a new psychiatric hospital to Pierce County,” said Bill Robertson, president and CEO of MultiCare. “There is a severe shortage of psychiatric services in our state and particularly in Pierce County. We applaud the leadership of the Washington State Department of Health in recognizing the urgent need for more inpatient psychiatric beds here in Pierce County.”
Local leaders said the county’s hospitals, jails and other facilities are overburdened with mental health cases for which they have few or no programs or beds. Franciscan’s St. Joseph Medical Center has the county’s only short-term mental health facility, with a 23-person capacity.
The county has been severely short of psychiatric beds since the closure of Puget Sound Hospital in 2010.
Under the alliance’s plan, construction will begin this year on the $41 million facility at the Allenmore campus at South 19th Street and Union Avenue. Plans call for the hospital to open in 2018.
CHI Franciscan CEO Ketul J. Patel said the new facility will serve a critical need. “We look forward to treating patients in this new hospital and truly helping meet the behavioral health needs for adults in Pierce and South King counties,” he said
Marce Edwards, a MultiCare spokeswoman, said the alliance is “still figuring out” where to site the hospital on that site. The campus now includes Allenmore Hospital and three medical office buildings and adjacent parking lots. MultiCare will soon begin demolition of the oldest of those three buildings, the Allenmore A office building, which parallels Union Avenue on the campus’s west side.
Tim Holmes, president of behavioral health services for MultiCare, said preliminary plans call for a three- or four-story building. It will include a “crisis stabilization” unit on the first floor and longer-term units on the floors above, he said.
Signature, which operates a chain of psychiatric hospitals nationwide, had argued that it was best qualified to build and operate a psychiatric hospital in Pierce County because it specializes in mental health care. The local health care systems have relatively little experience in that field, the California company said. The company was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.
The local combine said its proposal was superior because it could offer a continuum of both medical and psychiatric care to patients at the new hospital.
The Tacoma-based alliance is depending in part on gifts and government aid as well as its own resources to pay the costs of hospital construction. Signature said it would build its facility with private capital and bank loans.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663