“We love picturing what is possible here.”
When Craig Greathouse took a job as Director of Plant Operations at Spokane’s new 100-bed Inland Northwest Behavioral Health hospital, he and his partner Chelon Towner knew it would be a big life change. In their move to Spokane from a small apartment they shared on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, they’ve been met with a series of small, but pleasant, surprises.
The downtown hospital, which opened in October 2018, is a new investment in mental health in Eastern Washington, with Providence partnering up with Universal Health Services-Fairfax Behavioral Health. Craig has been hard at work overseeing compliance with regulations for the facility’s physical environment, operating systems, maintenance, dietary, and housekeeping. He is part of a broad-based team that offers a new level of care for the region, including psychiatrists and other medical care providers, case workers, behavioral specialists, and more.
Meanwhile Chelon, a self-employed photographer, has felt a sense of ease and welcome during what could be a stressful life change.
“It was summer when we moved here, and the first thing we found out was that all city pools were free of charge,” she remembers. “It’s a small thing — it’s not that the money amounts to very much. But with a toddler you’re never sure how long you’ll stay, so it felt like this great invitation and welcome to the city.”
Chelon packed a swimming bag to keep in the car, and made a habit of stopping at Comstock Park Pool to cool off with Nevelle, their one-year-old daughter. That small experience became a big part of their first summer in Spokane, which was capped off by the annual Spokane Symphony concert in the same park, just a few hundred feet away.
“It’s less than 5 minutes from our house,” she says. “We loved Seattle, but to do something simple like go to the pool or an event like that started feeling insurmountable. But now — we have this name for going anywhere or making plans: it’s Spokeasy.”
Craig adds, “When I lived in Seattle, my commute to work was so long that, on weekends, we didn’t want to even get out and do things, because I built up such an aversion to being in my car. Now I joke with Chelon that driving feels like I’m in a go cart or something. It’s fun. I’m at work in a few minutes. I can come home for lunch. Parking is not a big problem anywhere we’ve gone.” He adds that — while he has certainly put in his share of hours helping stand up a new hospital facility — there is a culture of work/life balance that is much more healthy than he's experienced in the past.
So far, they’ve enjoyed the different feelings that come with experiencing the more drastic seasonal changes in the Inland Northwest (though the February/March snow in 2019 has been a big adjustment). There are certainly some things that are a bit less Spokeasy, but digging cars out of the snow has been an unplanned social event with their neighbors, who they’ve loved getting to know so far.
They’ve explored restaurants tucked in different neighborhoods (some favorites are Central Food, Mizuna, Wisconsinburger, and Rockwood Bakery), and when the melt comes, they look forward to hitting the area’s best hiking trails and strolling through the Perry and Kendall Yards farmers’ markets again, or taking short weekend jaunts to Idaho, Montana, or British Columbia.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised, for sure,” Craig says. “Because of a lack of experience with it, we had an inaccurate view of Eastern Washington. For one thing, we never knew the Spokane area is full of evergreen trees. It's not what we pictured.”
They’ll spend the rest of year one continuing to find fun activities to do with Nevelle, and to establish themselves well in their work lives. Craig will continue to add value to a brand new hospital that is enhancing patients' lives with 21st-century mental healthcare. Chelon will continue making strong connections in the community and picking up photography clients. And they'll be keeping an eye out for their permanent home, as well.
“We’re loving the older homes, the tree-lined streets and parks,” Chelon says. “We’re renting now, but it’s fun to look at homes that are realistically priced, and spend time exploring neighborhoods. We love picturing what is possible here.”