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Psychiatric facility applies for state approval

The Hermiston Herald - 8/31/2017

Umatilla County’s main mental health service is seeking approval on plans to open a psychiatric hospital in Hermiston.

Lifeways Inc., will be reviewed by the Oregon Health Authority to open Aspen Springs Hospital, a 16-bed psychiatric hospital under construction at 1212 W. Linda Ave., Hermiston. The OHA will make a decision by Nov. 22.

Lifeways broke ground on the facility in July 2016, and the hospital was scheduled to open this spring. Lifeways director of communications Rick George said the plans were stalled by some issues with other facilities’ applications.

“We expected it to be a faster process, but two other projects were going on the other side of the state, which pushed us back,” he said.

“The state handles all of those (processes),” he said. “An organization like Lifeways has to go through several steps. Apply, answer a series of questions about why they want to open a facility, what they’re trying to do.”

He said that NEWCO, a psychiatric hospital proposed in Wilsonville, and Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland faced legal issues or opposition to certification that pushed back Lifeways’ application. NEWCO’s application was denied in February.

A press release from the Oregon Health Authority notes that the review will evaluate whether the project is effective to the area it proposes to serve, and whether it’s financially viable.

When it was first announced, the project was estimated at a construction cost of about $4.3 million, with an annual operating cost of $2.8 million. George said those numbers should remain roughly the same, despite the delay.

He said the public hearing will take place in late September or early October in Hermiston, and will allow them to finalize their application.

If the application is approved, George said, there are several other steps Lifeways has to take in order to open the hospital, such as getting a Medicare license.

“The final opening date is still being worked out,” he said.

He said construction on the facility should be completed by Nov. 1.

Currently, the Hermiston area is home to McNary Place, which provides mental health care and hospital-level crisis care in Umatilla. But a psychiatric hospital would take care a step further.

As of 2014, Oregon had 8.7 psychiatric beds per 100,000 people — the fourth fewest in the United States. Eastern Oregon residents are often sent across the state for treatment because there are inadequate beds nearby. The aim of a hospital like Aspen Springs would be to treat more people closer to where they live.


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