Just months after opening Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital in Hermiston, Lifeways, Inc. has announced it is closing the hospital due to difficulties staffing it.
The 16-bed inpatient hospital for acute psychiatric care officially opened in September 2020 and, according to a news release from Lifeways, served a total of 75 patients. However, the community mental health provider announced on Wednesday, April 7 that it was closing the hospital as an acute facility effective at midnight on Thursday, April 8. Lifeways stated it will work with Oregon Health Authority to find "an alternative level of care for Aspen Springs that is more aligned with healthcare worker availability."
According to the news release, Lifeways made the decision to cease offering acute care for individuals in crisis at the Hermiston facility because "the realities of COVID-19 and the healthcare worker shortage, especially for rural psychiatric hospital level licensure and credentialing, creates an unsustainable situation."
The closure is a blow to efforts to bring more mental health care to Eastern Oregon. When interviewed for the ribbon cutting for Aspen Springs in 2020, Umatilla County Commissioner John Shafer told the East Oregonian there was a "humongous need" for more psychiatric care beds, and that inadequate mental health care resources was the most pressing need in the county. Dennis Burke, who was CEO of Good Shepherd Health Care System at the time, also spoke of the struggle to find beds like those offered by Aspen Springs.
Lifeways originally broke ground on the building at 1212 Linda Avenue in July 2016, stating its intent to open the facility a year later, but instead began taking patients in September 2020. In 2019, Chief Operating Officer Liz Johnson told the East Oregonian that it had taken longer than expected to meet all of the state's strict requirements for the highest level of psychiatric care.
In the news release about the closure, Lifeways stated the organization appreciated the support from partners throughout the state and the community.
"Lifeways remains dedicated, even in these unpredictable times, to those needing a care team to walk by their side on their journey back to health and wellness. Thank you for your continued support during this transition," the release stated.
Lifeways is required to inform the public of the steps to take in instances where a patient records request is needed for patients served while Aspen Springs was licensed as a psychiatric hospital. Any former Aspen Springs hospital patient can obtain their records by contacting: