CLARK COUNTY, Wash. — The Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is planning to open a new behavioral health facility in Clark County.
The site is located off Northeast 50th Avenue in the Mount Vista area near Washington State University's Vancouver campus and Vancouver iTech Preparatory, a public school that services grades 6-12.
The state facility got its first big green light earlier this month: a conditional use permit that lays out conditions for moving forward before getting a building permit and starting construction.
Some neighbors who spoke to KGW said they're unhappy about the idea of the facility being built nearby.
Luanne Conner said she isn't sure what she'll do if the facility is built adjacent to her property.
"I’m not sure. Right this minute, we're just reeling because, really? We don't matter?"
The plan is to build three 16-bed buildings for a total of 48 mental health patients. Patient stays last 90 to 180 days or longer if approved by a court.
The neighbors fighting the facility have safety concerns for themselves and for students.
“It's actually quite common for behavioral health facilities to be nearby schools in that they are all similarly use-permitted,” said Janise Gogian, director of community transitions for the Behavioral Health Administration for DSHS.
Gogian said the facility will be built to fit into the natural environment, and it will be secure. Patients will be prescreened and will not have criminal charges pending.
"It's fully locked, the patients are not allowed outside the facility or the fenced area; the recreation area has a 12-foot anti-climb fence,” said Gogian.
Getting a conditional use permit was a big hurdle for the facility. It's basically a go-ahead for the plan.
In terms of security, an examiner with the county wrote, "The proposed facility does not pose a significant risk to area residents or students attending nearby schools."
Neighbors like Conner disagree.
"They're not putting up a fence or razor wire, they're not putting up anything like Washington State Hospital but they're sending Washington State Hospital patients here,” said Conner.
But Gogian said patients will be screened, and the most acute patients will stay at Washington State Hospital so that others can be treated safely.
DSHS leaders hope to have the facility built by winter of 2024, barring any legal challenge from neighbors. They say it will be called the “Brockman Campus,” named after the family that previously owned the land.