County Supports Summit Pacific Mental Health Clinic

Summit Pacific Medical Center received nearly $1 million in county funding on Tuesday for the development of a new mental and behavioral health clinic in Elma.

With this money, which will go primarily to staff, Summit Pacific is set to open the clinic within the next six months. This will be Grays Harbor County’s first low-barrier, non-discretionary mental health clinic.

“We’re full steam ahead,” said Summit Pacific CEO Josh Martin. “We are ready to go, now we just have to hire.”

Additionally, the Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners approved approximately $350,000 among four other agencies to improve access to mental health in the county.

These various projects, along with the Summit Pacific Clinic, are the first step in Grays Harbor County’s 2023-2025 Public Health Strategic Plan, much of which focused on increasing mental health services throughout the county. .

County commissioners approved the strategic public health plan in February, dedicating $1 million from the sales tax fund to county salaries. Since then, public health has formed a committee of local health providers and mental health workers to evaluate eight different proposals from different agencies to use the money.

This committee provided a funding recommendation to the county commissioners, who proceeded with the plan as recommended, except for one big change – for the clinic in Summit Pacific, they added $470,000 to the $500,000 originally recommended. by the committee, after Martin said earlier in the meeting that the full million dollars – or almost – would be needed for him to open the clinic without having to readjust his current model.

“If you only have to hire half the staff because you only have half the investment, you can’t afford it,” Martin told the commissioners.

Martin said he originally introduced his mental health center concept to the county about a year ago. Original projections pegged start-up costs at $2.2 million. Inflation has pushed that number up, Martin said, but the extra cost will be covered by the hospital district, not through a new tax, but from the hospital’s cash reserves.

All of Summit Pacific’s Tuesday awards came from the salary sales tax fund, including the $470,000 the committee originally recommended be left in the fund for later allocation. The county’s treatment sales tax, amounting to one-tenth of a percent of all sales, can only be spent on mental health treatment purposes and provides a large portion of the court’s budget therapy in Grays Harbor County. The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office also uses the fund for certain programs.

At commissioners’ meetings earlier this year, officials from those agencies expressed concern about the long-term sustainability of the fund, although commissioners assured that spending $1 million on mental health services this year would not put not jeopardize the fund.

The awards given to other agencies on Tuesday were funded by state and federal COVID-19 grants originally intended to provide cold weather shelter last winter. When plans for a shelter fell through, about $400,000 was reallocated to mental health services.

Half of this amount will go to behavioral health resources for student and youth centered care. BHR plans to provide youth drop-in services at all schools in the Grays Harbor area, as well as up to three visits with a mental health professional, regardless of payment or insurance type.

The Hoquiam Police Department’s Behavioral Health Navigation Program, led by Laina Caldwell, will receive $48,000 for a six-month pilot project. Port chaplains will also use $89,000 to launch a mental health pilot program

Mental health and addictions care provider Acadia will receive $3,000 in treatment sales tax for staff training.

Summit Pacific Mental Health Clinic

The goal of Summit Pacific’s new Mental and Behavioral Health Clinic is to provide low-barrier preventative care for all types of payers. Martin said it will be similar to a walk-in clinic, but “focused on those who might struggle to find access to services.”

“Sometimes the effort of planning a primary care visit takes a lot of effort and energy, and there’s a lot of anxiety associated with that,” Martin said in an interview.

With a focus on prevention, the goal is to treat mental illness before it reaches a crisis. As things stand, Martin said, patients in mental health crisis have two options — hospital or jail, which are often overflowing.

Martin noted several cases of mental health patients spending long periods of time in Summit Pacific’s emergency department. Many health agencies that currently provide mental health services accept state Medicaid patients, but not federal Medicare, commercial, or unpaid patients, meaning the hospital cannot discharge these patients without a referral.

But the new clinic will accept all types of payment, preventing crises and “hopefully we get to a point where we can save lives and reduce the impact on the system,” Martin said.

The clinic will also work closely with Summit’s 16-bed treatment facility in McCleary.

Unlike primary care, mental health treatment isn’t revenue-generating, Martin said, because the volume isn’t as high. The project won’t break even until year three, and even that’s a “very optimistic projection.” Low income is a reason many hospitals are not getting involved in mental health services, Martin said.

“This service is a community need,” Martin said. “The problem is that if it doesn’t generate revenue, we have to find funds to help pay elsewhere.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or [email protected].

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