New psychiatric unit in Auburn helps meet needs of community

Just two months after its opening, the new psychiatric unit at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is already proving an invaluable resource for the community.

By MultiCare Health System
For the Reporter

Just two months after its opening, the new psychiatric unit at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center is already proving an invaluable resource for the community.

The 20-bed inpatient unit on the third floor of the Cascade Tower opened March 29 to voluntary and involuntary patients ages 18 and older.

The new unit joins two established geriatric psychiatric units serving patients 60 and older at Auburn Medical Center, one for emotional wellness and the other for memory wellness. The need for the new unit was well-established: Washington state ranks near the lowest in the nation in terms of inpatient psychiatric capacity.

But more than just meeting a basic need for bed space, the unit was designed with bright pastel colors, lots of windows and natural light along with modern safety features, private single-bed rooms and open social areas to create a positive atmosphere for healing.

After several weeks in operation, we thought we would check in to see how things are going. We spoke with Dr. Sam Huber, Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health and Angela Naylor, Director of Behavioral Health at MultiCare Health System.

Q. How many patients have been seen since the unit opened?

Naylor: We are admitting someone to the unit almost every day. We admitted 29 patients in April.

Q. What need does the unit meet that was underserved?

Dr. Huber: There are very few places for people in acute psychiatric crisis to receive inpatient care in South King or Pierce counties. There are even fewer places for people to receive such care in a hospital-based setting. Until now there was no specialized place within MultiCare to admit a patient in need of acute psychiatric treatment, so these patients were either referred out to other places or detained in emergency departments or hospital units.

Naylor: The hospital setting allows us to serve patients that have (additional) medical diagnoses. We have admitted patients with mobility restrictions, oxygen needs and IV medication needs that could not be served in the freestanding evaluation and treatment centers.

Q. Have there been any surprises with how the unit functions?

Naylor: Not really! The unit functions well. The design flows well and allows staff to position themselves within the milieu to keep constant watch on all areas. The biggest surprise is the patients’ responses to the unit. They are happy with the bright space and calming atmosphere.

Q. Who are the patients — where do they come from?

Dr. Huber: Patients are coming from MultiCare Health System Emergency Departments as well as other hospital emergency departments.

Naylor: We have accepted patients from Pierce, King, Snohomish and Jefferson counties.

Q. Where were these patients going before the unit opened?

Dr. Huber: Many of these patients either didn’t receive treatment or were detained in less-than-ideal settings such as emergency departments or medical hospitals. Others were being treated at freestanding evaluation and treatment centers that are not hospital based.

More mental health projects in the works

In addition to the Auburn unit, MultiCare has other projects slated to help meet the region’s need for mental health facilities. This fall, MultiCare plans to open a 27-bed inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.

In addition, MultiCare is partnering with CHI Franciscan Health to jointly build and operate a $41 million, 120-bed psychiatric hospital in Tacoma. Construction of the hospital is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2018.

Along with expanding inpatient behavioral health facilities, MultiCare is also committed to providing additional outpatient behavioral health offerings to better support the needs of children, adults and families in the region.

Learn more about MultiCare Behavioral Health at