Stabilization center open after 6-month delay

Oak Harbor’s center for people struggling with mental health issues or substance use opened June 28.

Oak Harbor’s stabilization center meant to offer a short stay to people struggling with mental health issues or substance use opened June 28 after a six-month delay.

Clinton Jordan, senior director of residential treatment facilities for Pioneer Human Services, said people have already begun staying at the 10-bed facility on 10th Avenue Northeast. He said the delay was partially due to a delay in furniture deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said last fall that they had hoped to open in January.

It’s not full yet, “but that could change at any moment,” Jordan said.

The center is intended for people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis or are struggling with substance use.

A person usually stays 3-5 days while the staff — a mix of clinicians, nurses and counselors — help them stabilize. That could mean helping a person change medications, detox or find a long-term in-patient or out-patient program elsewhere.

Island County has been using more than its fair share of similar facilities for years and is one reason why it built the new facility. It will serve people from Island and San Juan counties and nearby areas. Pioneer Human Services operates the facility while the county owns the building.

The county spent roughly $6 million on its construction. Although it has 10 beds now, it was designed to increase to 16 if needed.

Jordan said the center should decrease the burden on emergency rooms and law enforcement because it can be a place for people to go instead of the hospital or the jail.

The most common way people enter the program is through self-referral or at the suggestion of friends or family, but law enforcement drop-offs also happen often.

For more information about the program and how to refer someone go to

The center is called Ituha Stabilization Facility, which Jordan said is a Coast Salish word meaning “sturdy oak.”

“Programs like this are intended to make the community safer, and intended to ease the burden on law enforcement and emergency rooms,” Jordan said.

Though the program is meant for short-term stays, Jordan said staff want to help their guests find a long-term solution.

“Our goal is not five days here and then ‘See ya later,’” he said. “We want whatever’s best for the individual.”