BHA Safe Start FAQs


On March 11, 2021, Governor Jay Inslee announced a statewide move to Phase 3 of the “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan.  The state’s pandemic recovery plan also changed to move from a regional to a county focus, and to allow indoor visitations at long-term care facilities.  The Department of Social Services’ Safe Start plan for the Behavioral Health Administration changed to reflect that plan.  All BHA facilities are starting in Phase 3 of the new recovery plan.

The BHA Safe Start plan provides criteria to safely conduct visitation at BHA’s 24/7 facilities in alignment with Governor Inslee’s proclamation on BHA facilities’ operations and visitation.  This plan updates criteria to safely conduct visitation at BHA’s 24/7 facilities, which include Eastern State Hospital, Western State Hospital, Child Study and Treatment Center, Fort Steilacoom Competency Restoration Program Residential Treatment Facility, Maple Lane Competency Restoration RTF, and Special Commitment Center.

It also prescribes policy related to trips outside the facility, communal dining and group activities, testing and screening, source control and PPE, and staffing.  View the full plan here.


Frequently Asked Questions

How may I visit my loved one in a DSHS BHA facility?

Type of Visit

When Allowed

Indoor visits*

Allowed if either the visitor or the resident is fully vaccinated*

Compassionate care visits**

Allowed at any time if the compassionate care criteria is met**

Outdoor visits

At all times

Remote visits through use of technology

At all times

*Indoor visits will be temporarily halted for the following reasons:

  • If there is a COVID-19 outbreak in a facility, until further assessment of the situation and a complete rounds of testing can be completed.
  • For an individual resident if they test positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine status.


**What are compassionate care visits?

Compassionate care visits are intended to permit limited indoor visitation and necessary support to patients facing serious health or emotional crises.  These visits are only permitted in “end-of-life” or “psychosocial need” circumstances.


What are end-of-life circumstances?

End-of-life circumstances are generally marked by a “sharp decline in health status,” as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  A health episode with a substantial probability of mortality should be considered to be an end-of-life circumstance.


What are psychosocial need situations?

Psychosocial need situations are defined by signs of emotional distress.  Examples may include expressions of grief, crying, social withdrawal, weight loss or dehydration, or reluctance to eat or drink.  Patients clearly struggling emotionally should be allowed visitors by these criteria.


May I hug or touch a patient during these visits?

Patients may choose to initiate close contact (including touch) with their visitors if the patient is fully vaccinated.  For patients under the age of 18, they may choose to initiate close contact their visitors if their visitors are fully vaccinated.  Both visitors and patients should wear well-fitting masks and perform hand-hygiene before and after any close contact.


How many visitors can participate in one of these visits?

The capacity of a compassionate care visit should be determined by social distancing.  The maximum allowable capacity of such a visit is the number of persons that can strictly maintain a six-foot radius from others.  Facilities may consider how the number of visitors per patient at one time and the total number of visitors in the facility at one time (based on the size of the building and physical space) may affect the ability to maintain the core principles of infection prevention.  If necessary, facilities should consider scheduling visits for a specified length of time to help ensure all residents are able to receive visitors.


What rules must I follow when visiting?

All visitors must be screened and wash their hands prior to entry. Visitors must be masked at all times and wear other personal protective equipment as directed. Visitors must strictly observe social distancing, maintaining at least six feet of distance from others. Vaccinated visitors are not exempt from safety requirements.


May I visit a patient in quarantine?

Patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, or those under required quarantine, may accept visitors under compassionate care circumstances.  The facility must be consulted for infection control guidance before such a visit occurs.


What else should I know?

BHA facilities must accommodate visits for compassionate care reasons.  Access to loved ones is important for patient wellbeing, especially under compassionate care circumstances.  All visitors to BHA facilities must be screened and sanitize their hands prior to entry. Within the facility, visitors must wear PPE and maintain a six-foot distance from others at all times.  Facilities should restrict the number of visitors per resident and the number of visitors allowed into the building at a time. Facilities may consider scheduling visits for a fixed length of time.


If I am concerned that a facility or agency visitor policy is improper, what can I do?

Please contact the facility directly with any concerns about proper adherence to the Safe Start plan. 

For concerns about potential abuse or neglect of patients, please contact Adult Protective Services at 877-734-6277 or Children Protective Services at 866-363-4276.


What precautions are in place to prevent staff and visitors from introducing infection?

All facility staff and visitors are screened upon entering or re-entering the facility.  Screening may include temperature checks and questionnaires regarding exposure and symptoms.  Everyone is required to follow facility safety policies to encompass social distancing, face covering, and additional protective equipment or measures as required.  In addition, all visitors must sign visitor logs and attest that they understand visitation requirements (which are posted at facility screening areas).


Are patients required to wear masks all day?

For a variety of reasons, to include safety and compliance, DSHS’ BHA patients may choose to wear masks but they are not required to do so.  However, the administration engages in numerous other infection control measures to protect the health of our patients, to include universal masking of all staff and social distancing of our patients. 


Facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19

Information on DSHS BHA facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among patients and/or staff can be found on the DSHS webpage. These charts include rates of confirmed cases per 1000 patients and 1000 staff members, and lists BHA case numbers per county.


Information about COVID-19: