Tacoma residents upset over another mental health hospital proposed in their neighborhood

TACOMA - How do you balance the need for a mental health hospital and the community’s concern over public safety?

That is the debate going on in Tacoma.

On Thursday, a hearing examiner hearing the details of a 105-bed facility for a vacant lot at Proctor and South 19th.

“The land is beautiful,” Howard Anderson said.

Anderson says he wanted a hospital to move in across the street just not a mental hospital.

Anderson and many who live in his neighborhood say a mental hospital with a capacity of 105 beds will pose a safety problem especially since it sits in an urban area.

Anderson says the concern is that the facility will be run remotely and that the facility will not be secured properly.

Others concerned attended a hearing in Tacoma Thursday.

“I don’t know that we have really spoken about what it would really do to the safety of our community at large when they are discharged,” said one woman.

Signature Health Care, the California based company behind the $42 million project, says they have a comprehensive security protocol on the proposed 83,000 square foot property.

Eric Kim with Signature Health Care says they will hire local professionals to run the Tacoma facility.

The company says there is a discharge process under the supervision of a physician.

They will eventually hire 300 people to serve the 105 clients. There will be beds for 90 adults and 15 kids. There will be inpatient and outpatient services.

Signature says the priority is to serve those with acute mental health problems like bipolar disorder, severe depression and schizophrenia. They say the priority is to serve people from the area.

However, if the state refers certain clients to them and they have an open bed they will be required to take those clients.

Kim says they would not be taking clients from correctional facilities because they are not equipped for that.

Anderson says he understands the need for mental hospitals but says the location is not appropriate especially since another mental hospital, Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital opened a little over half a mile away. The hospital opened in May and it will eventually have the capacity for 120 beds.

So far Wellfound says they have 8 inpatient beds and 6 crisis stabilization beds open. As of Thursday they had 6 patients in the inpatient beds.

At Thursday’s land use meeting, a hearing examiner heard details about environmental and public safety issues of the proposal to build Tacoma Behavioral.

If Tacoma gives Signature the green light, the mental hospital could open by 2022.