Inside what Gov. Jay Inslee described as Washington’s first facility on a “new horizon of behavioral health treatment,” daylight warms the room despite it being a foggy, rainy Friday morning.
Inslee and other officials gathered inside Maple Lane School’s newest building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating what they’re calling “Oak Cottage.” It is the state’s first publicly-funded “civil” center for behavioral health treatment. It’s located on Old Highway 9 SW in Grand Mound. The site will have controlled entrances and exits for security. According to the Governor’s Office, agreements with local law enforcement are in place.
The Thurston County co-ed facility can host up to 16 people above the age of 18 and includes sleeping quarters, shared spaces and classrooms to teach life skills, help with sensory issues and focus on a variety of mental and behavioral issues which can halt a person’s social and personal development.
Inslee said Washington is experiencing a mental health crisis which was exacerbated by the “long shadow of COVID.”
Far from the “old, centralized, huge industrial complex” evoked by the thought of behavioral health treatment, Inslee told The Chronicle, the new model is meant to keep people closely connected with their communities, churches and families. He said it falls in line with a mission outlined in 2018 to dramatically change the mental health model in Washington, which he called “long overdue.”
According to Inslee’s office, an additional 10 facilities will be completed statewide by 2024 and provide 239 beds. Construction will then begin for another 76 beds. He said these will support connections to existing care teams and other local resources without forcing residents to drive across the state.
“It’s cutting-edge,” said the governor. “It’s been designed with compassion.”
The ribbon-cutting was attended by the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation council members, including Chairman Dustin Klatush and the tribe’s health director, Denise Ross.
“I’m honored as the Chehalis Tribal Chair to be here on behalf of the Chehalis Tribe and be part of this vision,” Klatush said, reading from a prepared statement. “I worked on the groundbreaking actually, as one of the contractors. … To see how beautiful this has turned out, it just brings me joy to see the finished product. I raise my hands to everybody that had a part in it.”
Classes inside the facility, according to Director Jeneva Cotton, of Grays Harbor County, will include financial management, basic home skills such as cooking and laundry, problem solving, effective communication and “empirically-supported cognitive behavioral treatment.” Lessons will be centered on taking action guided by core values, Cotton said, and discharge planning will begin the day a new resident arrives.
Speakers at the ceremony also touted the building’s design and green focus. It relies heavily on natural light, uses solar power and, in general, looks less like a prison than most dorm buildings.
“We want our residents to be able to fully, successfully reintegrate back into their communities, which is again, our communities,” Cotton said.