Apr 01, 2023


Cascade Behavioral Health Hospital in Tukwila has served an estimated 25,000 patients in the decade it's been open.

It offers something in extremely short supply in Washington state: inpatient psychiatric care. But now, that service is going away.

During an all-staff meeting Thursday, hospital officials announced the facility would be closing by the end of July.

The announcement came as a surprise, one that Seattle Times reporter Hannah Furfaro said will have a big impact on Washington's already strained mental health care system.

"Demand is quite high at sort of all entry points to the mental health care system, whether you're trying to find a therapist, or you need more intensive care," Furfaro said.

Furfaro covers mental health and reported on the closure last week.

Cascade Behavioral Health Hospital is an acute care inpatient facility.

"Which means," explained Furfaro, "that when someone is having a behavioral health crisis and needs a place to be stabilized for a short period of time, say seven to 10 days, they can go to Cascade and get the kind of care that they need."

The hospital accepts patients that enter treatment voluntarily, as well as those who are involuntarily detained because they are considered at risk of harming themselves or others, or in a state where they are unable to care for their own physical and mental wellbeing.

Furfaro also noted that while Cascade is a short-term facility, she did hear from staff members that some patients stay longer than anticipated.

"One of the biggest reasons for that is because it can be difficult to find a place to discharge patients to," she explained. In some cases patients may stay weeks or even months before being discharged.

While Cascade has capacity for 137 people, Furfaro says it's actually been serving far fewer recently. As of last Friday, fewer than 40 people remained at the hospital.

"It's hard to say exactly why the facility is closing," Furfaro said.

Officials did not provide details in an emailed statement last week. But Furfaro noted that staff she spoke to were surprised by the closure.

Furfaro said steps are being taken at the state level to strengthen the mental health care system.

"State lawmakers this year passed a number of bills that I think are geared toward improving access to behavioral health," she said. "For kids who have had trouble getting the intensive psychiatric care that they need, locally here in King County, in April voters voted to approve a $1.2 billion property tax levy that will fund a set of mental health walk-in crisis care centers."

Libby Denkmann joined KUOW in December 2021 as the host of the midday show Soundside. She's a native Pacific Northwesterner who grew up in Redmond, graduated from the University of Washington and covered local news as a producer and reporter with KIRO Radio.

Sarah joined KUOW in 2019 as senior producer on The Record. She is now Supervising KUOW's new noon time show, Soundside. Prior to working at KUOW, Sarah was lead producer at the Seattle podcast production company Larj Media, and a teaching artist with Path with Art.