New life for Northern State Hospital?



n_state_315_header41 years after closing, will there be new life for Northern State Hospital in Sedro Woolley?

While Local 476 members are working hard with our contract compliance staff to save the campus of Northern State Hospital in Sedro Woolley, the threat of court action over lack of mental health beds may lead the state to re-open at least part of the facility for mental patients – 41 years after it closed.

The scenic grounds have been used since 1973 for a variety of other state and non-profit programs.

The courts have mandated that the state find more mental hospital beds to stop “psychiatric boarding” – the practice of parking mental patients in non-state hospitals. The state faces mounting contempt of court fines for not finding the beds quick enough. The state has until Dec. 26 to fully comply with the mandate handed down by the state Supreme Court in August.

The two remaining state adult mental hospitals Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake and Western State Hospital in Lakewood have been trimmed to the bone; the Federation and coalition partners advocate for more resources to restore beds and staff there.

Meanwhile, the idea of using at least part of the old Northern State Hospital for a 16-bed treatment facility has appeared. The Skagit Valley Herald reported Dec. 2 that DSHS considers any partial re-opening as temporary, for three to five years.

The Northern State Hospital buildings and grounds have been kept in tip-top shape by the members of the Federation Local 476, made up of a small corps of Department of Enterprise Services members.

The campus, now officially known as North Cascades Gateway Center, has been the subject of a debate about whether buildings and land should be peeled off for use by other entities. If this sounds like the effort that outsourced Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, it is but there are some stark contrasts. That includes saving jobs and preference for co-management between the state and the local community.

The port, county and city will now put together their proposal that they hope to have done by April.

Stay tuned.

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