Behavioral Health

Lakewood hosts adult family homes, mental health treatment facilities, and an enhanced services facility. This includes Western State Hospital. These places are sanctuaries for people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. They are also subject to community scrutiny. The City wishes for the safe, peaceful coexistence of neighborhoods and behavioral health facilities.


Adult Family Homes

The City has identified two key issues related to adult family homes:

Placement of high-risk patients into “less restrictive alternatives”

The City of Lakewood recently expressed concern over a DSHS practice to place potentially dangerous patients into adult family homes. Dangerous patients are incompatible with adult family homes. These homes are generally intended for those with intellectual or physical disabilities.

The City has previously litigated against the release of high-risk patients into residential care settings. In 2018, the Pierce County Superior Court denied a City motion, ruling that the City had no regulatory authority over state-sanctioned care or placement practices.

The City of Lakewood is now preparing suggested legislation to achieve proper supervision for high-risk behavioral health patients and the well-being of vulnerable residents of adult family homes. The City will also propose legislation to require “fair share principles” in the placement of potentially violent patients near their area of origin.

The City will continue to work with legislators and state agencies to improve the behavioral health model and protect Lakewood residents.

Location of adult family homes, specifically within air corridor zones

The United States Military Department discourages encroachment of airfields by urban development. Crashes are possible, especially given the significant air traffic coming and going from JBLM.

Proximity to airport operations has other adverse impacts, including possible pollution and noise.

Swaths of land in the approach path to JBLM airfields are zoned as “air corridors”. There are two such zones: Air Corridor 1 (AC1) and Air Corridor 2 (AC2). Both are regulated to reduce density and discourage certain development.

The operation of adult family homes in these zones is prohibited by local code, and potential residents might be at a higher risk of complications from noise or reduced air quality.


Western State Hospital

DSHS plans to build a new 350-bed forensic hospital on the Western State Hospital campus to replace outdated facilities. The WSH Master Plan describes plans for the new facility. This is a state project, directed by the legislature.

DSHS recently held a virtual Q&A event to respond to questions from residents. DSHS also helped answer common questions on our website.

If approved, the planned facility would finish construction by 2029. The total patient capacity will be slightly reduced. The City’s role is to review the plan for community & environmental impact and prescribe mitigations.


Enhanced Services Facilities

Enhanced Services Facilities (ESFs) are more fitting alternatives for high-risk behavioral health patients than adult family homes.

Enhanced Services Facilities are rare in Washington State; only six yet exist. A seventh has been permitted in Lakewood – the facility may be operational as soon as 2022. More of these specialized facilities should be built to house potentially dangerous patients that have demonstrated enough improvement within a psychiatric hospital to be considered for residential placement.

The City expresses that more municipalities should follow Lakewood’s leadership and permit these facilities. The City is communicating about this issue to the news media and working with legislators to influence improvement.


Common Questions

We await your questions – use the form below.


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