Fairfax Behavioral Health in Kirkland closes youth unit, shortly after state cites safety breach
Fairfax Behavioral Health in Kirkland, the state’s largest private psychiatric hospital, officially closed its adolescent inpatient unit, about three weeks after state health officials issued a temporary shutdown order to the hospital for endangering patient safety.
In a statement to the Seattle Times this week, hospital CEO Christopher West said, “Based on current patient demand and demographics, we have suspended the adolescent inpatient program, effective of May 16, 2022. This will allow us to dedicate more beds to serve our adult. population, an area of constant need in our community.
Fairfax did not respond to requests for more details, although it did clarify that this will not affect adult services or adolescent outpatient services. At the end of April, Fairfax had 10 teenagers in its unit, which served patients under the age of 18. We do not know where these young people will go.
Washington’s children’s mental health care system already faces overwhelming demand. “We don’t have beds,” said Grant County mom of six Penny Quist, whose child spent time at the Fairfax Teen Unit in 2018. “So shutting everything down is Wrong.”
Washington currently funds 94 long-term inpatient beds to serve the state’s 1.1 million children. The beds at Fairfax were short-term and filled a much-needed gap for families waiting for more intensive services.
Fairfax has a total of 157 beds and provides treatment for adults and children, including those who register voluntarily and those detained by court order. It is owned by Universal Health Services, which operates several psychiatric hospitals in Washington state and is one of the nation’s largest mental health care providers.
The state Department of Health issued a disciplinary action on April 28, preventing Fairfax from admitting new patients under the age of 18 until a safety breach is resolved. Officials declined to provide details of the safety breach, but cited the hospital for conditions that posed an “immediate risk” to patient safety – the most serious type of breach.
The state’s disciplinary action was based on a 2020 law that gave the DOH new enforcement powers over private mental hospitals. The department asked for expanded authority from lawmakers after a Seattle Times investigation found extensive harm to patients and staff at those hospitals, which had not faced any enforcement action since 2006.