The state received approval this month to move forward with plans to build a facility near WSU’s Vancouver campus, but some neighbors aren’t happy about it.
Clark County, Washington — The Washington State Department of Social Health Services (DSHS) plans to open a new behavioral health facility in Clark County.
The site is located off of Northeast 50th Street in the Mount Vista area near Washington State University’s Vancouver campus and Vancouver iTech Preparatory School, a public school for grades 6-12.
The state facility got its first big green light earlier this month. This is a conditional use permit that sets out the conditions for moving forward before a building permit is obtained and construction begins.
Some neighbors who have spoken to KGW are unhappy with the idea of facilities being built nearby.
Luanne Conner said she doesn’t know what she would do if the facility was built adjacent to her property.
“I don’t know. At this moment we’re just upset because really? Are we not involved?”
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The plan is to build three 16-bed buildings for a total of 48 mental health patients. With court approval, the patient will stay from 90 days for her to 180 days for him or longer.
Neighbors fighting facilities are concerned for their own safety and the safety of their students.
“It’s actually very common for behavioral health facilities to be nearby schools, and they’re all licensed for use as well,” said Janise Gogian, director of community transitions at the DSHS Office of Behavioral Health. said.
Gogian said the facility was built to fit in with the natural environment and is safe. The patient was prescreened and has no pending criminal charges.
“It’s completely locked and patients are not allowed outside the facility or fenced area. The recreation area has a 12-foot anti-climb fence,” Gogian says.
Obtaining a conditional use permit was a major hurdle for the facility. It’s basically a progression of plans.
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Regarding security, the County Examiner wrote, “The proposed facility does not pose a significant hazard to area residents or students attending nearby schools.”
Neighbors like Connor disagree.
“They don’t put up fences or razor wires. They don’t put up anything like Washington State Hospital, but they send Washington State Hospital patients here,” Conner said.
But Gogian said patients will be screened and the most acute ones will remain at Washington State Hospital so other patients can be treated safely.
DSHS leaders hope to have the facility built by the winter of 2024 and thwart legal challenges from neighbors. They say it’s called the “Brockman Campus,” named after the family that previously owned the land.