Aspen Springs

Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital is going through the review process to receive the neccesary certifications for operation.

An acute psychiatric care facility being built in Hermiston could accept its first patient by the end of 2019.

Lifeways broke ground on Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital, a secure 16-bed facility for patients with an acute mental health disorder, in 2016. Micaela Cathey, Lifeways’ executive director for Umatilla County, said the project recently passed its initial site review with the state and is moving forward with the review for the state licensing process, followed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services certification.

“We’re very excited to bring this to the community,” she said. “We’re as anxious for this to open as the community is.”

As part of the CMS process, Lifeways anticipates a “soft opening” of about six beds in November or December, before transitioning into full 16-bed service at the beginning of 2020. Cathey said they will hire between 35 and 40 employees, from social workers to nurses, to fully staff the facility.

When Lifeways broke ground in summer 2016 they expected to open in about a year, but Cathey said meeting all of the regulations in place for such a secure facility “has led to some lengthening of the timeline, much to our chagrin.”

Elizabeth Johnsen, executive director of business excellence, said an acute psychiatric care facility has to meet higher standards than even a hospital, such as “anti-ligature” measures to prevent possible suicide attempts.

“The intention is to make it the most safe we can for patients and staff, which is why we wanted to do it right the first time,” she said.

Aspen Springs will include 16 individual rooms for patients, a dining area, common area, reflection room, nurses station, offices for therapists, a fenced courtyard and more. Tours will be available to the public before the facility begins providing care.

Johnsen and Cathey said Aspen Springs will fill a “huge gap” in mental health care in Eastern Oregon. Currently, most patients experiencing a mental health crisis are transported to facilities on the western side of the state, pulling them away from support systems like friends and family.

Now, they said, if someone in Umatilla County is in a crisis they can stay in Hermiston, where family can visit, participate in family therapy sessions and work with care providers in person to create a plan for transitioning the patient back out of the acute care facility. Lifeways staff who provide inpatient care at Aspen Springs will also be able to coordinate closely with Lifeways staff who provide outpatient services to the client.

“The key is that we will be able to serve our community directly in the community,” Cathey said.

It will also add more beds to what has been a shortage of psychiatric beds in Oregon and across the nation, reducing wait times for care.

The facility is located at 1212 Linda Avenue, near Lifeways’ Hermiston offices.

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