News Article Details

County seeks public comment for S-W mental health facility

Skagit Valley Herald - 8/15/2019

Aug. 15--SEDRO-WOOLLEY -- Skagit County is seeking public comment on a proposed mental health stabilization campus in Sedro-Woolley.

The 16-bed evaluation and treatment center, designed to replace a closing facility on the campus of the Sedro-Woolley Innovation for Tomorrow (SWIFT) Center, can't move forward without public comment being accepted as part of the city of Sedro-Woolley's permitting process.

At a meeting Tuesday in Sedro-Woolley, county staff, health care providers and project architects presented the basics of the proposed facility.

Jim Wolch, architect with BCRA Design, said the facility will look residential rather than institutional, which is in line with modern behavioral health treatment facilities.

"Part of the strategy is to create a welcoming place," he said. "We don't want people to enter this place and see that security fence (and) feel like this is a prison."

The county examined 10 potential sites for the facility, but decided on one on Highway 20, just east of Life Care Center of Skagit Valley, said Kayla Schott-Bresler, assistant director of Skagit County Public Health.

"One of the main things we were looking for in siting this facility is easy access for law enforcement (and) easy access for (health care) providers," she said.

The county has received $10 million from the state Legislature to fund the project, she said.

Gregg Von Fempe, with Telecare Mental Health Services of Washington, is the administrator of the facility being replaced and is slated to direct the new facility.

An evaluation and treatment facility is a secure facility, and will serve only those who have received involuntary commitments through the justice system, he said.

"We refer to the people that come to us as guests, not patients," he said. "We want them to recover and live meaningful lives."

He said the current facility served 300 in the past year.

Depending on how the permitting process goes, the county could break ground by mid-2020, Schott-Bresler said.

The process for what is called an essential public facilities permit requires documentation establishing the need for a facility, a list of similar resources in the area and a breakdown of public comment, said Christine Phillips, an architect and planner with BCRA Design.

After the city of Sedro-Woolley reviews submitted materials, the decision to grant a permit goes to the county hearing examiner.

More information is available at, and comments can be sent via email to

-- Reporter Brandon Stone:, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH


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