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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

MultiCare targets fall to open behavioral health clinic at the Northeast Community Center

MultiCare’s Samantha Clark, assistant VP of strategy and business development for the MultiCare Behavioral Health Network, stands in front of a new behavioral health clinic under construction in the former Hillyard Library near the Northeast Community Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

By this fall, MultiCare providers expect to offer mental health services from a new behavioral health clinic that’s under construction in Hillyard.

Work began two months ago at the former Hillyard library building, 4005 N. Cook St., next to the Northeast Community Center and across the street from Shaw Middle School and the new Hillyard library.

The $2.58 million project received funding from donors, the city of Spokane, Spokane County and other groups.

MultiCare will operate the clinic and slowly add more than 20 behavioral health providers, said Samantha Clark, MultiCare Behavioral Health Network assistant vice president of strategy and business development. Services will include individual and group outpatient therapy for youth to adults from surrounding neighborhoods and the wider region, Clark said.

The clinic’s virtual services can help rural clients.

“The real work on this clinic has been a few years in the making,” Clark said.

“It started several years ago with a community health assessment in the Hillyard neighborhood, where the community actually identified mental health as a top need. Then myself, the Northeast Community Center and the Zone (Northeast neighborhood partnership) got together and really started creating a plan for this clinic.”

The input included surveys and health data – such as that from the community center, neighborhood councils and Spokane Regional Health District – from the past several years.

COVID-19 had affected everyone’s mental health, with issues of isolation and spikes in domestic violence and online bullying, Clark said. However, regional mental health needs were identified before the pandemic.

“If you look at community surveys prior to COVID, this area of Spokane had low access to behavioral health services locally, higher incident rates of domestic violence, and they’re lower on the social-economic scale – a lot of low-income families who are working,” Clark said.

“We knew this community really needed mental health services before COVID. What we saw during COVID is people with existing mental health needs often got worse, and a lot of people who maybe didn’t have behavioral health challenges started having them.

“Now, more than ever, there’s a need.”

The 8,200-square-foot clinic will have 21 offices, a large classroom for skills learning, a couple of large rooms for group therapy and virtual care space. Among more than 20 staff members, a majority will be licensed mental health therapists, but there will also be psychiatrists and psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners who can provide medication.

It will take at least a couple of years to build staff to capacity because of worker shortages, Clark said. The beginning focus will be on mental health therapy.

“The goal of this clinic is to serve all ages, so we’ll have services for adolescents, adults, older adults with individuals, families and groups,” Clark said.

“The goal is definitely to have services for mental health and substance use co-occurring, especially substance use services for adolescents that is really important with opioid and fentanyl use, so that will definitely be part of the program as we build.”

“We’ll start with mental health therapy, but as we staff and grow, we’ll add other services and programs to grow substance use programs – especially for adolescents.”

The clinic also will be open to people with all insurance types: Medicaid, Medicare and commercial providers.

Another MultiCare focus will be to work with area universities to encourage more graduates to become behavioral health providers, such as through workforce incentives and internships. Eastern Washington, Washington State and Gonzaga universities offer career-related educational programs, she said.

To build the clinic, the 2021 MultiCare “Heart Strings for Hope” benefit concert brought a significant portion of donations, Clark said. Other funding came from the state Department of Commerce, city of Spokane, Spokane County and the Ballmer Group.

Clark said a goal in future years is to offer walk-in services, versus appointment-only care.

Once the clinic opens, the Northeast Community Center would provide referrals and serve as a resource for patients with other needs. The 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.

Providing behavioral health care next to those other services can help families.

“Easy access is the goal,” Clark said. “In the next several years, we’d like to serve over 50,000 visits a year, once fully staffed.”