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Could no state money, so far, hurt construction of Bellingham detox, mental health center?

Clinical Nurse Manager Anthony Ulrich stands inside the Whatcom County Triage Center in Bellingham on Oct. 20, 2016.
Clinical Nurse Manager Anthony Ulrich stands inside the Whatcom County Triage Center in Bellingham on Oct. 20, 2016. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Plans for a new 32-bed center on Division Street to treat people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse are moving ahead, despite the state Legislature’s failure to pass a capital budget that would’ve paid for a chunk of its construction.

The price tag for the current proposal is roughly $9 million, including the cost of relocating services there now during construction.

The project isn’t yet at the stage where it could be harmed by the lack of a capital budget. But officials are doing what they can now while waiting for approval of the $4 billion budget, which they hope will happen by the end of this year.

“We’re taking the steps needed,” said Tyler Schroeder, deputy executive for Whatcom County.

Division Street already is home to the Whatcom County Triage Center, which helps stabilize up to five people who are suffering a mental health crisis, and Whatcom Community Detox, which helps up to eight people withdrawing from drugs and/or alcohol. Both services share a building, although different organizations run them.

The proposal is to redevelop the Division Street property, which is owned by Whatcom County government.

The existing smaller center is often full, so the expansion is needed to provide help to more people, who could otherwise end up in jail or the emergency room, officials said.

The county has set aside about $3 million of a special sales tax that raises money for mental health care for the project, and North Sound Behavioral Health Organization is providing $2.5 million.

The grant from North Sound Behavioral Health Organization will allow the county to begin the first phase, which includes some architectural designs and construction cost estimates.

The county also will talk to Division Street neighbors about the center and the need for the expansion.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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