Oregon’s largest Medicaid provider, CareOregon, announced this week that it has purchased an old Red Lion Inn in Seaside for $8 million.
The hotel will be turned into housing for two different populations: there will be units for people with behavioral health needs and workforce housing for health care professionals.
CareOregon’s Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization will run the building in partnership with Clatsop Behavioral Health.
“There’s no question about that and the shortage of housing on the North Coast is acute,” said Mimi Haley, executive director of Columbia Pacific CCO. “Being able to solve the housing shortage issue by adding these 50 or 60 new apartments is a big deal.”
Clatsop County has the highest per capita homelessness rate in the state, and Haley pointed out that finding housing for this population could also improve their health outcomes.
“People who are unhappily housed have much higher rates of hospitalizations for situations that could have been handled in primary care,” said Haley. “They have much lower rates of engagement with the primary care system. They will often pass away at a much younger age, and they often have mental illnesses or substance use disorders that can’t be really addressed without stable housing.”
The facility will be staffed by people who have lived experience with homelessness or behavioral health issues 16 hours a day, seven days a week. There will also be a live-in resident manager who’s there 24/7.
Twenty of the hotel rooms will be converted into permanent supportive housing for people with behavioral health needs, such as treatment for substance use disorder. The remaining 40 units will be turned into housing for another population that has had difficulty finding housing on the coast: healthcare professionals.
Amy Baker, the executive director of Clatsop Behavioral Health, says the agency has lost multiple employees who were unable to find housing.
“We actually rented a cottage so that we could relocate folks into that cottage while they tried to find more permanent housing,” said Baker. “Unfortunately, that one cottage isn’t even nearly enough.”
Haley hopes these units begin to address some of the challenges providers across Clatsop County have been experiencing with recruitment and retention.
“We know from our partners that they cannot recruit the providers that they need,” she said.. “We hear it all the time from all of our partners across all provider levels and types.”
The old hotel should start getting a makeover sometime this year, and Haley hopes it will be ready to open in spring of next year.
“The piece that gives me hope and faith is that you go into this work because you care about people,” said Baker, “and ultimately having a place for somebody to live, it’s just a good thing.”