Residents say the mental health facility is not suitable for the Mount Vista area

A two-part hearing on the use of land for a proposed mental health facility on Northeast 50th Avenue in the Mount Vista area ended Thursday night, but the decision in the hearings Joe Turner is unlikely to come until the end of July. The first part of the meeting took place on May 26.

The Washington State Department’s Social and Health Services facility will consist of three one-story buildings, each with 16 beds. The facility will house patients with civic duties for 90 to 180 days, although commitments can be extended by the court.

The Department of Social and Health Services will manage one facility; The Washington State Health Service will negotiate teams to manage the other two. All three will provide initial admission and assessment, medical examination, psychiatric screening, risk screening, psychological / biological / social assessment, treatment and peer support to the 48 patients.

If approved, construction of the facility could begin later this year, with the first building open to patients in the fall or winter of 2023.

Residents of the Mount Vista neighborhood have expressed concerns about how the site was chosen and whether the facility is suitable for land use. Some neighbors have teamed up to form the No Psychiatric Institution, which says the site is adjacent to the iTech Preparatory School in Vancouver and the Gardner School of Arts and Sciences – as well as the Washington State University in Vancouver in the west and Pleasant Valley Elementary School and South High School – make it a bad choice.

Steve Morash, a Vancouver lawyer representing some residents, cited concerns about the presence of patients in a criminal court in a closed facility near homes.

“You may have a situation where there may not be a blocking facility‚Ķ but they can accommodate some people, perhaps in one wing or some rooms, which may have to be subject to partial or complete detention”, which would require The 300-foot failure of schools defined by the land use code, he said.

Morash said the type of facility under construction falls into the category of facilities banned in residential areas.

“The proposed facility is indeed a hybrid between mental health and criminal correction,” he said during the hearing. “What is being proposed is essentially a hybrid or diversion facility for criminals with mental health problems, and for that reason we believe it fits into the ban on blocking facilities.

While the site will house patients with civic engagement, DSHS said it will also house recovery patients who enter the inpatient behavioral health system through criminal courts.

According to the Department of Social and Health Services, “In order for our patients to regain competence to become involuntary civic engagement, they would first receive restitution services, which include stabilization and drug management, training for the judiciary, coping and skills for emotional regulation and group treatment. If it is established that they are not competent to stand trial and cannot be restored to that level of jurisdiction, the court may order an assessment of the civil commitment. “

The department wants to build the facility as part of its efforts to alleviate shortages of mental health providers and facilities across the state, especially in southwest Washington.

In 2021, the legislature approved spending $ 500 million over two years to develop or improve behavioral health and substance use programs in Washington.

A similar facility is available for Thurston County. The Ministry of Social and Health Services received about $ 57 million from the legislature for the design and construction of the facilities.

Another issue raised by neighbors is that Northeast 50th Avenue and Northeast 159th Street are narrow, two-lane roads that will not be able to cope with the increased traffic that the facility would bring. A study of the road has been completed, but neighbors say it was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when students did not attend classes in person and many people worked from home. They want the traffic research to be reworked now that more drivers are back on the road.

However, David Jardin of Clark County Public Works said during the hearing that the traffic survey data “were prepared in accordance with the policies and procedures in place at the time” and that the Department of Social and Health Services was able to use current pandemic-adjusted traffic data and asked to use pre-COVID-19 data.

“The request to use older censuses was made when the applicant’s engineer corresponded with the county to determine the scope of the proposed traffic survey,” said Jardin, noting that 2017 censuses were used for specific intersections, as more recent data on these intersections were not available.

An additional concern for residents is what will happen to rainwater runoff. The Ministry of Social and Health Services said it had conducted an in-depth review through the process of the State Environmental Policy Act and had not identified significant environmental impacts.

Jennifer Reynolds, acting district public affairs engineer, said the department had reviewed a preliminary request from the Department of Social and Health Services and “staff found the candidate eligible or eligible, but also recommended conditions for approval.”

One condition may be a requirement for impermeable lining to ensure that groundwater from low-lying areas does not interfere with rainwater operations.

If the hearing examiner approves the conditional use permit, Reynolds said, a final application will still have to be submitted and approved.

Gavin Hawkins of Vancouver said the Department of Social Services and the county said they were unsure the facility would not raise groundwater levels in neighboring properties and insisted a full hydrogeological study be completed.

“We are all well and septic. We do not want the negative effects of this and we are all still under water, as this year is super wet. But we are underwater for most of the year, “Hawkins said during the hearing.

Turner said he would leave the recording open until 5pm on June 27 to allow for further comments. Comments can be sent to [email protected] Turner said he expects to come up with a decision by July 26.

To watch the hearing, visit For more information on the DSHS project, visit

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