An Oregon nonprofit is working to expand access to acute mental health services in Eastern Oregon by resurrecting a closed psychiatric hospital in Umatilla County.
The Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital was a 16-bed facility that opened in September 2020 in Hermiston but closed after just seven months due to staffing issues.
Kimberly Lindsay is the executive director of Community Counseling Solutions, a nonprofit provider of mental health services based in Hepner that purchased the facility last fall for $4.6 million.
She says the hospital’s closure had tangible effects for people seeking urgent mental health care.
“We were left with zero beds, and it was devastating,” Lindsay said. “People are sitting in emergency rooms that went from maybe 24 hours to now five to six days, in some cases longer, before an acute care bed could be found.”
Lindsay said the added wait times not only impacted patients’ health but also put additional strain on emergency room staff and local law enforcement who sometimes had to aid in transporting patients to other facilities.
“It really placed a big strain on the entire system in Eastern Oregon,” Lindsay said
Community Counseling Solutions staff plan to decrease the number of beds for the psychiatric hospital from 16 to 10, with the remaining six to be used for long-term care. Lindsay said she believes this change would help reduce the number of staff needed, insure East Oregonians can receive urgent care when needed, and hopefully prevent future closures.
“This issue, it’s paramount. It’s significant. We want to address it,” she said.
Kimberly Lindsay joined Think Out Loud to discuss access to rural mental health care and the purchase of the psychiatric hospital. You can listen to the full discussion here: