Washington State University is working to provide an on-campus site to administer COVID-19 vaccines by the time most of its students become eligible to receive the shots.

WSU spokesman David Wasson said the university has applied to the state to be a vaccine provider. He said the University Recreation facility could be a possible location to administer vaccines.

The vaccine site will be limited to students, Wasson said. The university wants to provide a high-volume vaccination site for when an influx of students begin getting shots.

He said there is not a determined date for when the site will open.

Whitman County Public Health Director Chris Skidmore told the County Commissioners on Monday that his department is working with WSU to speed up that process.

Whitman County will move to Phase 1B tier 2 of Washington’s vaccination plan on Wednesday. This allows vaccines for workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement, among others. Phase 1B tier 2 also includes people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk.

The commissioners on Monday were also informed that the county expects to receive $9.8 million from the federal government in COVID-19 relief funding during the next two years.

It will likely have until the end of 2024 to spend the money.

County officials will learn more about how the local government can spend those dollars. Palouse River Counseling Executive Director Mike Berney spoke to the commissioners Monday and said he hoped some of that money could go toward expanding behavioral health services in the county.

Berney said there is an increase in demand for these services and federal funding could play a key role in meeting that demand.

“That actually would be perfect because we could have a very efficient system if it was funding like that,” Berney said.

Berney said he is meeting with representatives with WSU and has spoken with Whitman County Public Health about developing a plan to provide more behavioral health resources.

Commissioner Michael Largent said he supported Berney’s efforts.

“From my perspective, what Mike is doing, what Palouse River Counseling is doing is pretty key to our capacity to survive this in some sort of a healthy way,” he said.

Berney is also involved with the Whitman County Suicide Prevention and Resiliency Task Force’s efforts to raise awareness about a program called “Practice the Pause.” It is a program promoted by the Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health to help people avoid acting without thinking when they are feeling stressed, unhappy or afraid. It is also meant to educate people on how to help a friend or neighbor who is struggling mentally.

The task force is focused on spreading its message to schools, churches, senior centers and youth groups.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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