Spokane Journal of Business

$6 million renovation planned at Eastern State Hospital

Project will add two wards with a total of 50 new beds

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Eastern State Hospital plans to start work next month on a $6 million renovation project that will convert 22,000 square feet of former office space at the Medical Lake facility into two new patient wards.

Mark Kettner is the Medical Lake-based chief executive officer with the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services, which operates Eastern State Hospital and two other state psychiatric hospitals as well as the office of forensic mental health services.

Kettner says Eastern State Hospital consists of two campuses--Westlake and Eastlake—with a total of 317 patient beds. The majority of patients it serves are from Eastern Washington counties.

He says the planned project will convert former patient care areas currently used as office space on the first and third floors of Eastlake’s main building into two, 11,000-square-foot wards with 25 patient beds each.

“Part of the project also includes renovating other areas in order to combine and relocate offices to make more effective use of the building’s overall space,” he says. “We’re adding new office furniture and desks to help ease staff’s transitions into a more shared office environment.”

The project is more complex than a simple remodel, Kettner asserts.

“It’s considered almost a total rebuild or renovation of these spaces, so it’s actually quite an extensive project,” he says.

The project includes bathroom remodels and plumbing work, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work in the ceilings, as well as the addition of two seclusion rooms for each new ward.

He says Spokane-based NAC Architecture is designing the project, but the state hasn’t selected a contractor yet.

“Currently, Burton Construction Inc., of Spokane, is helping us with some of the relocation of office staff, and Coeur d’Alene-based Great Floors LLC has been assisting the hospital with replacing flooring in wards throughout the facility,” he says.

Kettner estimates the relocation of office staff that formerly occupied the spaces will cost $300,000, while the renovation of the two wards is estimated at $6 million.

“This project will be funded through state capital funds, and we’re working with the capital office to secure that funding,” he says.

Kettner says project construction likely will begin next month and is expected to be completed by March of 2020.

In addition to adding 50 new patient beds, the hospital also will need to hire about 120 new employees to staff the new wards, Kettner says.

“It could be difficult to find and hire enough employees, which is why we’re working closely with legislators and the folks at capital funding to make sure we have the funding needed to do that.” 

Despite the difficulties in finding enough staff for the two new wards, Kettner says facility officials are excited about the project.

“The facility is already looking more modern, and we feel it will go a long way toward providing a better atmosphere for both patients and staff.”

Kettner says the project is part of a redesign of the forensic competency wards required by the federal court case Trueblood. v. Washington state DSHS, which was filed on behalf of inmates with mental illness who are in jail while awaiting competency services at state hospitals. 

The state of Washington settled the Trueblood case in August and has agreed to make sweeping upgrades to its forensic mental health system. The settlement also requires the state to provide court-ordered, in-jail competency evaluations within 14 days and inpatient competency evaluation and restoration services within seven days.

“These new beds are meant to serve patients who have been mandated by court order to receive competency restoration treatment,” Kettner says. “This new design will ensure those folks are able to get into the hospital in a timely manner and get the treatment they need.”

Sean Murphy, assistant secretary for the DSHS Behavioral Health Administration division, says a similar project soon will be underway at Western State Hospital, in Lakewood, Wash.

“Both projects are meant to invest in changes brought about by the Trueblood lawsuit,” says Murphy. “They’re designed specifically to help people from the criminal justice system who are in need of care competency evaluations.”

Murphy says the project at Western State Hospital is on a similar timeframe, although construction likely won’t begin until June, following the selection of a contractor.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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