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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council commits $500,000 toward redeveloping former Hillyard library into a mental health clinic

The old Hillyard Library, shown Tuesday, which is being replaced by the new library across the street adjacent to the new Shaw Middle School, is being considered by MultiCare for use as a medical facility at 4001 N. Cook Street.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The old Hillyard Library, shown Tuesday, which is being replaced by the new library across the street adjacent to the new Shaw Middle School, is being considered by MultiCare for use as a medical facility at 4001 N. Cook Street. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Plans are in the works to build a new behavioral health clinic at the former Hillyard library building on North Cook Street.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday to commit $500,000 toward the project, which would see MultiCare operate the 4005 N. Cook St. clinic. The exact source of the city funding has not been decided.

As proposed by MultiCare and the Northeast Community Center, the Northeast Spokane Community Behavioral Health Clinic would first open with a core offering of services before eventually growing over time, said Samantha Clark, assistant vice president of strategy and business development for the MultiCare Behavioral Health Network.

These core services would include outpatient therapy for mental health and substance use for adolescents, adults and older adults, along with medication management. Clark said she envisions the clinic growing over time to offer walk-in services and group sessions.

Meanwhile, the Northeast Community Center – which neighbors the old Hillyard library building – would provide referrals and serve as a resource for patients with other needs. The Community Center’s agency partners include SNAP, the Children’s Home Society of Washington, the Hillyard Senior Center, Unify Community Health and the Spokane Women, Infants, and Children program.

“Behavioral health, when it’s provided in close proximity to other services like medical, dental and early learning, really provided a better wraparound service and addresses the whole needs of the family and would really help with positive outcomes,” said David Richardson, executive director of the Northeast Community Center.

Considering that behavioral health clinics are typically standalone facilities or work out of a standalone primary care clinic, Clark said the clinic could become an example of “a nationwide best practice.”

“If I’m a working mom and I work two jobs and I have two kids, it’s really hard for me to make the time to go drive out to a primary care clinic and then go drive out to my pharmacy and then go drive to my therapy appointment and then go down to the grocery store,” she said. “The more you consolidate those services and bring them together to create a one-stop shop … and the more you improve access, you bring a sense of togetherness for the community.”

The project’s total estimated cost is in the range of $1.5 million to $2.2 million, Richardson said. Prior to Monday’s vote, project developers had already raised $600,000 toward the new clinic.

Richardson said developers are currently working to bridge the remaining gap largely through a $700,000 funding request to the state Legislature and a $300,000 ask to Spokane County. The funds are included in the capital budget funding proposals put forth by the House and Senate.

Construction would involve a roof replacement; heating, ventilating, and air conditioning upgrades; and access amenities in step with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Richardson said.

“We may not be able to build a Cadillac, but we’re going to get a real nice, reliable, four-door Ford that we can drive down that road and service this community for a long time,” Richardson said, “and we’ll continue to find funding and make improvements as we go.”

As plans were underway in 2019 to relocate the library to the Shaw Middle School campus, the Northeast Community Center conducted surveys to determine potential uses for the former library building, Richardson said. Other possibilities considered included adult education, workforce development, community policing and off-hours day care.

Richardson said mental health care challenges – between understaffed areas and increased wait times – were consistently brought up by schools and other providers.

“The average wait time, the number we kept coming up with, was about six months for counseling services for youth that were experiencing trauma or suicidal thoughts or substance abuse or misuse,” he said. “We knew that having a local center could greatly reduce these wait times.”

Once fully staffed – which could take some time due to workforce shortages, Clark cautioned – the clinic is expected employ around 40 to 50 clinicians, psychiatrists, administrators and other staffers in providing upward of 34,000 in-person and telehealth therapy visits per year, according to MultiCare.

“It’s amazing to see events like Monday evening where unanimous votes are cast, and I’m heartened by the motivation that we’re building,” Clark said. “We still have a really long way to go until funding is really solidified and the clinic is built up to code and licensed, but we’re so excited.”

Richardson said the building has been largely vacant after Spokane Public Library left for the newly constructed library on the Shaw Middle School campus across the street. The 4005 N. Cook St. location did see use as a cooling center last summer.

The City of Spokane obtained the building last summer from Spokane Public Library in exchange for the ownership of the 906 W. Main St. library and property.

“I think this is a really important project that’s got a lot of community support,” said Councilman Michael Cathcart, whose council district encompasses Northeast Spokane. “A lot of folks have come together from all different walks of life in Northeast Spokane to try to help organize and support this, so I’m really grateful for that.”

Should the project move forward, Northeast Community Center would lease the building from the city, Richardson said. Likewise, Clark said MultiCare would rent the building from Northeast Community Center at market rate.

The City Council passed Monday’s resolution with the support of Mayor Nadine Woodward, who said Tuesday she loves what’s happening in that North Cook Street area between the Shaw Middle School campus and, now, the health clinic.

She cited how the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in October concerning children’s mental health due in part to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a huge issue,” Woodward said. “Whatever we can do locally to get our youth the resources and the services they need, that’s going to be one of my priorities.”

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