Telecare proposes mental health facility in Federal Way

Skyler Nichols, known to the Federal Way community as Skyman, real-life superhero, recalled needing help for his bipolar depression in February.

Skyler Nichols, known to the Federal Way community as Skyman, real-life superhero, recalled needing help for his bipolar depression in February.

“But there were no beds, so I sat in a St. Francis [emergency room] bed for three days,” he told a small crowd at a community meeting.

Nichols discharged himself without getting the help he needed, only to end up in a vicious cycle of self medication.

It’s exactly the problem Telecare Corporation, King County and other mental health organizations are trying to solve.

The city hosted the community meeting on Nov. 23 to invite feedback about a proposed 12,000-square-feet, 16-bed inpatient mental health facility at 33430 and 33500 13th Place S. to be operated by Telecare Corporation.

The proposed location is directly to the north of West Campus KinderCare, south of Northwest Sports Rehab and across the street from King County Public Health and the Multi-Service Center. The Federal Way Day Shelter Coalition also hopes to open a day shelter in the area this winter.

Telecare’s proposed evaluation and treatment program will help adults ages 18 and older who experience “acute psychiatric symptoms” that require a safe and secure environment and 24-hour support so that they can become stabilized and return home or to another support system.

“People come into the program escorted and leave with a plan,” said Telecare Corporation senior vice president of development Faith Richie.

The services include mental health services only – no detox or drug rehabilitation – and are for inpatient clients only, meaning no walk-in services will be available.

Richie said the people who would utilize the program are either suicidal or a danger to others at the time they’re committed but the goal is for them to regain mental health stability in the 10-12 days they’re at the facility.

Currently, there’s a shortage of inpatient treatment beds available for those who need mental health services.

Approximately 20-25 percent of King County acute psychiatric referrals come from south King County, yet there are no evaluation and treatment beds south of Tukwila, according to Telecare.

If accepted, this facility could see about 400 people per year.

Jim Vollendroff, the director of King County’s mental health and substance abuse division, said he lived in Federal Way up until three years ago and, during that time, he had been trying to bring more services to the area.

“We need more,” he said at the meeting, adding that this proposed project is one of many trying to get off the ground. “… There are not enough beds in our system.”

The increase can be attributed to the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. The law calls for more access to mental health services with the expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

And in August 2014, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that boarding psychiatric patients in emergency departments for hours before beds were available was unconstitutional.

Last year, there was 8,422 referrals for psychiatric detention with 6,006 seen. About 3,900 were detained and, of those detained, 827 were from south King County. From January through August of this year, 512 people (59 of which were homeless) from south King County have been detained.

There are a total of 348 evaluation and treatment beds in King County and they are spread throughout Seattle, Kirkland and Tukwila.

Vollendroff said Washington ranks 48th in the country for beds per capita and noted that most people who do get help are not representative of the need.

“The quicker they can get people into treatment, the better off they are,” he said.

Cameron Coltharp, the director of facilities and real estate services at Telecare, said they are currently in the application process with the city of Federal Way and it will be about 60-90 days before the formal submission. He estimated the final approval would take about four to six months, 60-90 days for a construction permit and at least six months for construction.

Which means Telecare is looking at about 14-18 months before the facility opens, if there are no problems.

To avoid that, Telecare reached out to its potential neighbors to seek feedback.

Coltharp said most were supportive, including KinderCare, which runs a secure facility and said that they don’t believe operations will conflict and will be “able to maintain safety and security for both groups.”

Colleen Moran, a KinderCare spokeswoman, said KinderCare “certainly understands the city’s need to provide mental health services” to the community but they have not yet addressed all of their security concerns with Telecare representatives.

“We’re in conversation with them about how we can work together to ensure the continued safety of KinderCare children, families and staff,” Moran said in an email. “So far, Telecare has been quite receptive to our concerns and is working to address them. We are working with them to address potential concerns so those worries do not become an actual problem.

“As for parent reactions to the news, between the proposed homeless shelter across the street and this proposed facility next door, it’s a lot of information to take in. However, we will continue to work with both organizations to ensure this neighborhood remains a safe place for everyone.”

Although the building will be locked, there will be an outdoor yard area for patients. Coltharp said it will be fenced in either a stucco wall or a red wood fence.

The owner of Northwest Sports Rehab did not return the Mirror’s request for comment.

To find out more information about the Federal Way Telecare Evaluation and Treatment Program, email or visit