PACIFIC COUNTY — Many changes are coming to Willapa Behavioral Health, including a major renovation.

In the state’s 2019 legislative session, WBH was awarded $225,000 to make its waiting area more “trauma-sensitive.”

The funding effort was led by Sen. Dean Takko’s office.

In addition to the renovation, WBH is working on expanding many of its services during the remainder of 2019.

“I think the community needs us here so we’ve got to do this,” said Willapa Behavioral Health Director Adam Marquis. “At the end of the day, we just want to serve our customers well.”

The renovation

WBH is aiming to finish the renovation by February. WBH will try to avoid closing down during renovation work, Marquis said.

“It’s really about safety improvement,” Marquis said. “The premise was patient and staff safety.”

WBH’s Long Beach building is about 10 years old. The building wasn’t made to be trauma-sensitive, Marquis said.

When walking into WBH’s waiting room, anyone can walk upstairs, where several offices are. From the waiting room, there are five doors which lead to different parts of the building.

“I, in good conscience, can’t allow access to staff the way it is right now,” Marquis said. “I’m not comfortable in that arrangement.”

Through the renovation, WBH will switch the location of its lobby and staff offices. The downstairs will be connected with a medical exam room upstairs. Doing so will make the building more quiet and subdued, Marquis said.

“If someone in our population that we serve has post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s a very highly stimulating environment; people moving, doors closing, shuffling your feet, talking, loud noises, maybe even a TV on,” Marquis said. “It’s not trauma-sensitive. The office heightens arousal for them.”

Patients who feel overwhelmed by WBH’s waiting room often have to spend time with their therapist de-escalating at the start of their visit.

“That impedes on their time with their therapist,” Marquis said.

Changing demographics

Throughout the last 10 years, both WBH and its patients have changed. The changes are another major factor as to why WBH is updating its offices and services.

Within the last two years, WBH went from 35 employees to 80. Another 10 employees are expected to join WBH by the end of this year, Marquis said.

Among the new hires will be a nurse practitioner and two intake specialists.

“We are identifying unmet needs for services in this community and developing them,” Marquis said. “There has been a lot of market opportunity to do that.”

Also within the last two years, WBH expanded the number of locations it has from two to five.

Because WBH has had such a high increase in staff, WBH is trying to help its employees specialize in areas they like, Marquis said. This is one of the reasons behind WBH expanding its services.

“We want to help employees feel like this is their home, like they’re owners and not renters. That’s the key,” Marquis said. “It’s really hard out here to find qualified staff, then train and credential them.”

WBH aims to have its employees stay for at least two years, Marquis said.

WBH’s changing patient demographics have also been a factor in why WBH is expanding its services. Many patients come to WBH with multiple diagnoses, which require more services, Marquis said.

“We’re seeing a lot more complicated patient profiles,” Marquis said.

Other changes ahead

WBH is considering adding primary care services by the end of 2019, Marquis said.

“We want to do psychiatrically sensitive primary care,” Marquis said. “We won’t stand on the toes of primary care locally through Ocean Beach Hospital or Willapa Harbor Hospital.”

WBH’s primary care won’t affect local hospitals because WBH’s psychiatric patients don’t typically get primary care, Marquis said.

WBH also plans on expanding services at all of its branches. Upcoming services could include individual therapy, group therapy and co-occurring disorder services.

WBH is also in the process of adding parenting classes and expanding its mental health services through its WISe program.

“Everything that we do here, we do with the staff and clients in mind,” Marquis said. “We look for that triple-win every time; community, staff, clients. That’s really the focus.”

WBH also plans on transitioning most of its service to be more technology-friendly.

This will happen by having patients complete forms on technology such as iPads instead of traditional paper, Marquis said.

“We have to prep for tele-health and virtualization of things. We want to make it a lot more friendlier,” Marquis said. “It’s what we’ve got to do or we’ll become obsolete. That’s just reality.”

The updated technology will allow community residents to have video-chat sessions with providers, Marquis said.

Give feedback

Community members can call WBH’s North County branch at 360-942-5312, and South County branch at 360-642-2096.

“We want to improve and we need you and your input for getting services here,” Marquis said.

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