In 2015, the Whatcom County Council made increasing the capacity of the Crisis Stabilization Center a key priority. The Health Department took the lead in planning and implementation with support and assistance from the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force. Whatcom County began a project in late 2017 to design a larger facility with expanded services.
The $13 million expansion project was funded through a combination of support from the Washington State capital budget, the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization, and the Whatcom County Behavioral Health Fund.
County Executive Jack Louws (2012-2020):
"A Whatcom County behavioral health facility plan, completed in 2016, identified the need for this new facility. Our plan was incorporated into a regional behavioral health facility plan of the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization. The result was a coordinated regional effort to secure funding for construction for our facility as well as others in the North Sound region."
"In order to fully utilize the much-needed services that this facility will offer, operational support is critical. We want to personally extend our gratitude to Representative Sharon Shewmake for her successful efforts with the state legislature to provide $1 million for the next two years to ensure that individuals who have no access to insurance or Medicaid can receive these vital services."
Representative Sharon Shewmake
"We should be really proud about what we're doing for our friends and neighbors."
County Council Chairman and IPRT Member Barry Buchanan
“I am so proud of our Whatcom County Team! Special thanks to our State partners (Rep. Sharon Shewmake) and the vision of former Councilmembers Ken Mann and Carl Weimer, and all of the members past and present of the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Taskforce. This was the #1 priority of the Taskforce and we all worked very hard to make it happen!”
Mental Health Crisis Support
The project expanded mental health stabilization beds from 5 to 16 in Whatcom County. These services are provided by Compass Health, which offers immediate crisis stabilization, as well as planned admissions. While admissions are available 24/7, planned admits are encouraged to ensure space is available. Medical screening for admission is conducted on site by a registered nurse. Medications may be prescribed by a licensed professional and administered on site.
Treatment services are offered in both group and individual settings and based upon a plan co-created by the guest. Lengths of stay can vary from three to five days and are dependent on the needs of any given crisis episode. Discharges are planned and designed to connect guests with services to continue caring for their mental health.
Safe Detox Services
The new Substance Withdrawal Management/Detox unit increased the number of beds available from 8 to 16. Professional staff from Pioneer Human Services work with voluntarily admitted clients to provide the first step toward substance abuse recovery and connection to further treatment. Services provided include 24/7 medical monitoring, medications, and counseling by trained staff.
Clients are offered a welcoming and safe environment where they can recover from the transitory effects of intoxication and withdrawal. Staff and guests develop a plan for continued treatment upon discharge.
Anne Deacon, Human Services Manager, Whatcom County Health Department
"We want to make sure people don’t feel like there’s anything wrong simply because they’re experiencing a behavioral health crisis or even significant distress. It’s not uncommon and everybody deserves an opportunity to receive support and care. It’s not a character flaw."
“We want to give everyone the best chance possible. If they truly come in for stabilization, we want to give them what they need … and so they maintain hope for future recovery.”
Law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office and the county health department work collaboratively to determine when someone should be diverted from jail or arrest and taken to the center instead.
The average stays are three and five days, although needs can vary. When a guest arrives, they begin to work on their goals for their stay and what their next steps are, which helps determine the length of stay.
Most importantly, the center helps to develop the discharge plan, which connects guests to other services and resources in our community.
County Executive Satpal Sidhu (2020-present)
“Too often individuals in crisis, whether a mental health crisis or chemical dependency, get sent to jail or the emergency room, which are not at all equipped to serve their needs. This new center is well-designed and staffed with professionals who can get the patients stabilized and ready to enter a longer-term and less intensive care environment. It’s going to change the lives of our community members for the better.”