Fairfax Behavioral Health in Kirkland closes youth ward shortly after state cites security violations

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative that focuses on treating mental and behavioral health problems. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization that focuses on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times retains editorial control over this team’s work.

Fairfax Behavioral Health in Kirkland, the state’s largest private psychiatric hospital, has officially closed its inpatient youth ward about three weeks after state health officials issued a temporary shutdown order to the hospital for endangering patient safety.

In a statement to The Seattle Times this week, hospital CEO Christopher West said, “Based on current patient demand and demographics, we have suspended the inpatient adolescent program effective May 16, 2022. This will allow us to allocate more beds to our adult population, an area of ​​ongoing need in our community.”

Fairfax did not respond to requests for more details, although it did clarify that this will not affect adult services or adolescent outpatient services. At the end of April, Fairfax had 10 adolescents on the ward, helping patients under the age of 18. It is not yet clear where these young people will go.

The mental health system for children in Washington already faces overwhelming demand. “We don’t have beds,” said Penny Quist, a mother of six in Grant County, whose child spent time in Fairfax’s youth ward in 2018. “So closing everything is bad.”

Washington is currently funding 94 long-term hospital beds to serve the state’s 1.1 million children. Beds at Fairfax were of shorter duration and filled a much-needed void for families waiting for more intensive services.

Fairfax has a total of 157 beds and offers treatment to adults and children, including those who check in voluntarily and those who are detained by court order. It is owned by Universal Health Services, which operates several psychiatric hospitals in Washington state and is one of the nation’s largest providers of mental health services.

The Department of Health issued a disciplinary measure on April 28, barring Fairfax from admitting new patients under the age of 18 until a security violation is resolved. Officials declined to provide details about the security breach, but cited the hospital for conditions that presented “imminent danger” to patient safety – the most serious type of violation.

The state’s disciplinary action was based on a 2020 law that gave DOH new enforcement powers over private psychiatric hospitals. The department sought greater authority from lawmakers after a Seattle Times investigation revealed that patients and staff at such hospitals, which had not undergone enforcement action since 2006, had suffered significant harm.

Mental Health Resources from The Seattle Times

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