Lifeways starts construction on psychiatric care facility in Hermiston

From The East Oregonian, July 2016

Eastern Oregon residents experiencing a psychiatric crisis will no longer be sent across the state to receive help after construction is finished on an acute psychiatric care facility in Hermiston.

Lifeways 2Lifeways, which provides mental health and addiction services to the region, broke ground on the new 16-bed Aspen Springs facility on Wednesday. It is expected to become operational in spring 2017.

“This is a great day for us,” Lifeways CEO Judy Cordeniz told the crowd.

Good Shepherd Medical Center CEO Dennis Burke applauded Lifeways for taking the “bold step” of upgrading their original plans from a residential treatment facility to a regional acute psychiatric facility.

That type of secure facility can take care a step beyond residential treatment facilities such as McNary Place in Hermiston, providing the most intensive level of mental health care, including hospital-level crisis care for a per-bed cost cheaper than the Oregon State Hospital.

“Having a facility like this is an investment, a significant investment, and I very much expect to see a return on it,” Burke said.

The need for such facilities is great. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, Oregon’s number of psychiatric beds per 100,000 people dropped from 28.8 in 2009 to 8.7 in 2014 — the fourth fewest in the country. The result is that local residents in need of in-patient treatment after a severe mental health crisis are often sent to the other side of the state because there are no beds available closer to home.

Cordeniz said Lifeways is pursuing certification from the state to allow the facility to take Medicare patients, which has become crucial as Baby Boomers continue to retire.

The project’s construction budget is expected to run to about $4.3 million, with an annual operating cost of about $2.8 million. Greater Oregon Behavioral Health and the Eastern Oregon Human Services Consortium contributed $500,000 in seed money for the project.

Lifeways CFO Steve Jensen said the facility should create about 35 family-wage jobs when completed.

Greg Schneider, the former Lifeways CEO who helped get the project off the ground, said building a 16-bed facility in Hermiston to allow people in crisis to stay closer to home was a “no-brainer.”

“I think this will be great for the community, and for Lifeways,” he said.

The facility will be located at 1212 Linda Avenue and will be considered part of the Good Shepherd Health Care System campus. According to information handed out at the groundbreaking, Good Shepherd Medical Center will collaborate with Lifeways to provide “general ancillary hospital services and restore the availability of community-based psychiatric hospital services for our community, lost with the closure of Blue Mountain Recovery Center as a hold facility and state hospital unit.”

Financing of the project is being handled by Zions Bank, design by Pinnacle Architecture and construction by W.C. Construction and various local subcontractors.