crisis center

The 14,450-square-foot Crisis Stabilization Center will be located close to the county’s minimum security jail.

County Crisis Stabilization Center will have 16 beds for those in mental health crises, 16 more for detox 

BELLINGHAM — Whatcom County Council member Barry Buchanan used President John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech on Monday to describe the monumental task of making the county’s new Crisis Stabilization Facility a reality.

Buchanan was one of several speakers at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, located at 2026 Division St. in Bellingham just across from the county’s Alternative Corrections facility. Buchanan talked about the many details of securing funding for a project that was stymied a decade ago by the recession as the county health department worked on it, and the many people who took part in finding the funding to make it happen.

Tiger Construction is building the new 32-bed facility. Sixteen beds will be reserved for people who are experiencing acute mental health distress. The other 16 will be dedicated to substance withdrawal management services, colloquially known as detox.

In 2012, the Jail Planning Task Force recommended the facility, and in 2015 then-County Council members Carl Weimer and Ken Mann created the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, which took on the Crisis Stabilization Facility as its first major flagship project.

“It’s a high priority with the task force, and it’s been a bumpy road,” Buchanan said. “We had funding secured, but we came up short for some of the operational funding at the 11th hour at the beginning of this year.”

Buchanan, along with Bellingham City Council members April Barker and Daniel Hammill, along with Anne Deacon, human services division manager with the Whatcom County Health Department, worked in Washington D.C. to find the extra operational funding necessary to actually run the facility.

State Rep. Roger Goodman of the 45th District put together the logistics regarding how to get this kind funding moved through the state Legislature. Goodman suggested that Sharon Shewmake, who had been serving as a state representative for the 42nd District for only about 10 days, Buchanan said, but Goodman recommended it as the perfect project for her to take on.

“She said she was all in,” Buchanan said.

With Shewmake’s help, the county was able to secure the necessary operational funding to actual provide the services it touts.

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws led the groundbreaking, and following Buchanan’s speech, Louws introduced Jack Hovenier, who co-chairs the county’s Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force with Stephen Gockley. Hovenier said he knows firsthand the importance of focusing on rehabilitation over incarceration whenever possible.

“Often, people are on the edge,” Hovenier said. “They’re on the edge of suicide, they’re on the edge of theft, they’re on the edge of all sorts of behaviors that don’t serve anyone, and having a safety net, having a place where people can go and just give people time is one of the many benefits that this affords. When Jack gave my introduction, what he didn’t say, he may not know or maybe he just was kind, is I wasn’t just those other things. I was someone in detox. I was someone in jail. I was someone that was in work release. I’m an ex-ex-felon, through the different procedures we have for people who rehabilitate themselves, and because of that, I believe in rehabilitation.”

Deacon spoke last, and she further detailed precisely what the facility will offer to people in crisis. The side of the facility dedicated to helping people in mental health distress will have supportive treatment staff available at all hours to help them stabilize their current crisis, along with help determining the next steps after discharge, including medication, counseling, longer-term treatment planning and engagement and connection with long-term treatment options in the community.

Compass Health is partnering with the county for treatment, Deacon said.

The detox facility will help people through their first steps in combatting addiction with an inpatient setting intended to ensure the health and wellbeing of each individual.

“Services offered there will include assessment, medication, counseling and services after discharge,” Deacon said.

The county is partnering with Pioneer Human Services to provide detox services, along with food in the facility’s kitchen.

“Treatment works. We know that. Recovery is attainable. We know that. I am so thankful that we will have a grand facility to offer a better future for our neighbors,” Deacon said.

For more information on the Whatcom County Crisis Stabilization Facility, visit https://www.whatcomcounty.us/2075/Crisis-Stabilization-Facility.