Turn that SAD frown upside down

Winter means cold and dark days for everyone and, for some folks, a dose of SAD.

People suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as a result of the lack of sunshine that is thought to trigger a chemical change in the brain, leading to a type of depression that medical and behavioral experts say can be offset by light therapy, psychotherapy, antidepressants, and simply talking about it with a friend.

SAD usually starts during adulthood, gets worse with age, and affects women more often than men. And it abounds in Washington. Compared to the rest of the states, Washington has the third-highest rate, due to temperatures averaging in the 40s, persistent rain and grayness, and a grand total of about 400 hours of sunlight during winter, according to a national study by Mattress Next Day.

“Unfortunately, some people with SAD can have symptoms up to five months of the year,” said Dr. Jeff Eisen, chief medical officer of MultiCare Health System’s Behavioral Health Network. “This condition can affect all aspects of someone’s life, including their ability to work productively or socialize with their loved ones.”

Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the most common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness.
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in favorite activities.
  • Social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection.
  • Irritability, anxiety, and feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
  • Fatigue or low energy.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Decreased ability to focus, concentrate, or think clearly.
  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates, and weight gain.
  • Physical problems, such as headaches.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD sufferers experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression. The most difficult months tend to be January and February. While much less common, some people experience SAD in the summer. About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD for about 40 percent of the year.

SAD is more than just “winter blues.” The symptoms can be distressing, overwhelming, and can interfere with day-to-day functioning.

As seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule. SAD is more common in people living far from the equator where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter.

SAD can’t be prevented, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to suffer through symptoms that are life-threatening or disruptive, Eisen said. He said a good first step is having a primary-care physician assess the symptoms and refer a patient to a mental health specialist, if needed. Connecting with family or friends can also be helpful.

“One of the most important things people can do is talk about their concerns and feelings with someone they trust,” Eisen said. “Sometimes people who experience SAD or other forms of depression may be hesitant to reach out. If we could talk about mental health concerns as openly as we talk about diabetes or high blood pressure, then we could erase some of that stigma and create more opportunities for people to get the help they need.”

The Mattress Next Day study ranked the five states where SAD is most prevalent. At the top is Alaska (not surprising given its scarcity of sunshine and temperatures as low as minus-2), followed by New York, Washington, Vermont, and Michigan. Oregon, among others, was high on the SAD register, too.

At the other end of the spectrum, people in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico are the least likely to suffer from SAD, due largely to milder temperatures.

No place for home

By Farah Eltohamy and Mai Hoang


From her pristine garden to her punchy graphic t-shirts, 78-year-old Judie Short emanates a great warmth and appreciation for everything around her.

Upon entering her home in Aberdeen’s Leisure Manor Estates, guests find an office nook lined with vintage knickknacks and Seattle Seahawks memorabilia. Her kitchen shines in a resplendent shade of cherry red, and its many windows let in sunlight that carries on to the rest of the house. It’s a three-bedroom home, but she has converted the second and third bedrooms into a cat-themed craft room and a playroom for when her grandchildren come to visit.

“When we moved in five years ago, it was going to be an affordable place to live and everybody here got along so well,” she said. “We had activities and you could go out and walk and visit with people, and it’s just a good community – and now everybody’s nervous and nobody knows what’s going to happen next.”

In late 2021, a Port Orchard-based mobile home management company, Hurst and Son LLC, acquired Leisure Manor in a string of pandemic-era purchases – and since then, its tenants have faced steep rent increases, threatening them with “economic eviction,” along with new alleged problems with upkeep and maintenance that did not exist before.

Hurst and Son’s growing presence in Washington reflects a broader pattern in which investors increasingly purchase and centralize such communities, making one of the last reliable options for lower-income housing less and less affordable. Lawmakers opened the door this year to expanding resident-led ownerships of park communities, but other proposals to regulate the industry and cap rising rents stalled. Leisure Manor has since become an example of how mobile park residents can band together with other communities to push back and defend their homes. 

“This is not trailer trash,” longtime tenant Bill Hardy said during a recent tour of the park. His wife, Caroline, helped found a new tenants association and has rallied neighbors to organize in opposition – from filing complaints to the state attorney general’s office to coming out in support of a rent notice ordinance at their local city council. 

“We’re hoping to get all these people together,” Caroline Hardy said, “so that we can fight.”

Leisure Manor Estates – a lush, idyllic community tucked off Highway 105 — has long served as a retreat for seniors away from some of the surrounding small-town dreariness. Pastel homes line the streets, front lawns lovingly adorned with kitschy lawn gnomes and wooden figurines. An average day is quite still – save for the occasional dog bark or cheerful greeting between neighbors on their morning walks. 

In this community, everybody knows everybody – and despite the supposed impermanence of these homes, many of Leisure Manor’s tenants have settled into this steady way of life for decades. When Hurst and Son took over the park in late 2021, their lives were upended – and many “For Sale” signs have since gone up throughout the nearly 200 lots. 

“I came home from my walk this morning, seeing those other for-sale signs, and just wanted to throw a sign on the front of our place,” Short said. “I just wanted to get the hell out of here.”

Residents said they paid around $485 in rent and utilities under the previous management. Now, with Hurst and Son’s most recent rent proposals, residents will be expected to pay closer to $750 – an increase of approximately 55 percent. Residents also told Crosscut that Hurst and Son introduced separate charges for garbage and sewer services, costing community members close to an additional $100 a month. 

They said Hurst and Son also cut landscaping service, leaving residents to mow their own lawns and maintain common areas. Older residents, some in their 90s with limited mobility, now pay additional costs to hire lawn services. If residents don’tt comply with Hurst and Son’s rules on mowing or parking, they risk a $65 fee per violation. 

“It’s a real racket. Maybe I’m just jealous that I didn’t think of it,” Short quipped.

Run by husband and wife Caleb and Kristina Romack, Hurst and Son has acquired 60 mobile home parks since 2017, according to the company’s website, with many purchased during the pandemic. The company now lists 73 manufactured home communities across five states, including 56 in 21 Washington counties. The company also owns several commercial properties. 

Records from several county assessor offices indicate Hurst and Son spent at least $116 million on 35 parks in Washington in the past six years. Many were purchased well above assessed value, including Leisure Manor Estates, which was purchased for $11 million, close to double the county’s assessment value of $5.6 million. (Federal data shows the company also received approximately $200,000 in pandemic economic aid in 2020.)

The company continues to expand into other parts of the Northwest with purchases in Idaho and Montana and even has gone as far as North Dakota, where it owns three parks. 

Caleb Romack declined to comment when Crosscut reached him on his cell phone. The Romacks didn’t respond to multiple e-mails or voicemails requesting response to complaints in this story. The couple have pledged to address complaints or park damage in previous news stories. In e-mails to state officials, Hurst and Son contends it is following relevant laws. 

Earlier this year, the Yakima Herald-Republic detailed rent hikes at Hurst and Son communities in Yakima e.coli contamination in the water at one of those parks. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News covered a meeting in March when residents from Hurst and Son communities in Moscow, Idaho in light of rent raises and limits on selling their homes. 

Bellingham tenants shared similar complaints last year.

For this story, Crosscut spoke with dozens of Hurst and Son community residents across the state, housing advocates, and lawmakers. Crosscut also obtained lease records, e-mails between the company and residents, property sale records, and consumer-complaint data from the state attorney general. 

In recent years, many mobile-home community landlords have grown rapidly, acquiring and consolidating management over parks amid an explosion of investor interest. Residents say new owners often implement steep rent increases and cut services that reduce property values and quality of life.

Management companies have argued that rent increases are necessary to keep up with market rates and to make improvements to communities.  Some sell potential investors on purchasing manufactured-home communities by saying such homes add to a region’s housing stock and help improve housing affordability. 

However, Victoria O’Banion, who works with manufactured-home owners in Washington and Idaho to form ownership cooperatives to buy their communities, argues such rent increases are part of a multi-year “gentrification cycle.” She said the end game is to move residents to higher rents and flip the park for many times the purchase price. In other words, the communities become another housing option for higher-income earners, while those with tighter incomes are left with fewer choices. Seniors and other fixed-income residents increasingly get priced out of one of the last accessible housing options. 

“Eventually,” she said, “’grandma Sally’ is economically evicted.” 

Deb Wilson and Caroline Hardy, long-term residents of Leisure Manor, said they had no experience organizing or networking before Hurst and Son took over the Aberdeen park. Now, they feel like it might be their best chance to save the community they love. 

Shortly after the Hurst and Son acquisition, the women began to notice how deeply the rest of their community bore the weight of management. They said tenants confided their fears of no longer being able to afford to live there and of speaking up about any other inconveniences within the park.

The women contacted Anne Sadler, a longtime mobile-home owner in Mount Vernon and president of the Washington Association of Manufactured Homeowners. Sadler had kept an eye on Hurst and Son and said their practices have become increasingly predatory in recent years.

“They’re all about the money, that’s all they care about. They care nothing about these people,” she said. “Another little, frail, elderly woman who could barely struggle out of her unit came up to me and said, ‘I’m not going to be able to pay my rent. I’m not going to be able to live here. I have nowhere else to go.’”

With few options for legal recourse, Sadler has advised tenants to take up their concerns with the state attorney general, whose office oversees a manufactured-housing dispute resolution program for helping negotiate conflicts between residents and landlords. Hardy and Wilson said they’ve helped several neighbors submit complaints.

“The attorney general – we’ve got people filing complaints, but they don’t do much,” Hardy said recently. “You know, the system is there, but it’s functioning against these people.”

The state attorney general’s (AG) office has received at least 102 consumer complaints filed against mobile home parks owned by Hurst and Son since 2016, 82 of which are closed. The office declined to answer questions about its handling of them or interactions with Hurst and Son managers.

In e-mails between the AG and the company, regional managers said they followed all provisions of the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.20) in raising rents and notifying tenants.

Ishbel Dickens, a retired attorney with experience working in manufactured-housing tenant rights, said the act prevents homeowners from being evicted without any cause but doesn’t limit how far a landlord can raise a tenant’s rent, which has been the case with landlords such as Hurst and Son, who could evict residents “just by making it too expensive to stay there.”

In what they hope can serve as a template for other communities, Hardy and Wilson helped establish the Aberdeen Tenant Association in 2022 to collectively push for new protections, including a City Council-approved ordinance requiring more notice of rent increases at Aberdeen parks so residents have more time to adjust their finances or find new housing. 

Wilson and Hardy said they’ll seek solidarity among other parks for a potential class-action lawsuit by meeting with other Hurst and Son residents in the Puget Sound area.

The manufactured-home industry often highlights its role in providing affordable housing, especially as home prices have spiked during the pandemic. In 2022, the average sales price for all new manufactured homes in the U.S. was $123,300 (not including the cost of renting underlying property), compared to $540,000 for a conventional-built home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Most residents who own manufactured homes must still lease the lot it sits on. Paying off their home doesn’t guarantee stability, since they still remain subject to the rental rates of the lot owner. 

Many residents own homes that have become too old to move. They may be called “mobile” homes, but more often they are functionally anchored to their lots.

Washington’s Department of Commerce reports about 30 communities with a combined 582 lots have closed statewide since 2017. The agency offers a relocation program with technical and financial assistance to eligible residents — based on income — who are impacted by a community closure. However, there’s a limit to the amount of financial assistance — up to $11,000 for a single-wide home and $17,000 for a double-wide. 

In some scenarios, owners may still have to sign over their home to the community owner because even with cash assistance, it might not be financially or practically feasible to move their home. The assistance might instead go toward finding other housing rather than preserving their home.  

One resident who lived in the Hideaway community in Spokane for nearly 24 years said Hurst and Son had promised improvements to the park when they purchased it in 2015. They repaved the roads but have done little work since. Residents also complained about a new water fee policy that they said split water charges evenly across tenants each month instead of tracking use with individual meters, meaning a single retiree pays for consuming as much water as a large family household regardless of actual usage.

The Washington Legislature passed a new law this year requiring the state’s Department of Commerce to provide notifications when a mobile-home community goes up for sale, allowing residents a chance to band together to purchase them. Sen. Noel Frame, a Democrat representing Seattle’s 36th Legislative District, said she authored the bill after growing concerns over the “broader trend of displacement for low-income folks and seniors.” Frame said they “weren’t even getting an opportunity to compete or to purchase, and now they have that opportunity.”

The bill also builds in a penalty of $10,000 if landlords willingly fail to comply with notifying the state of a pending purchase. If the problem continues, Frame said, the attorney general’s office will get involved.

Commerce officials started listing community sales on the market in July. O’Banion and ROC Northwest has worked with two dozen owner-cooperatives to purchase communities in Washington and Idaho. O’Banion noted the average annual rent increase for resident-owned communities across the U.S. is just under 1 percent, well below the double-digit increases seen at Hurst and Son communities. 

When a community goes up for sale, O’Banion said, ROC Northwest starts meeting with resident homeowners to assess the feasibility of a cooperative and vote on the matter. She said a successful cooperative generally needs the support of 57 percent of the residents and a strong commitment to collective ownership. 

Given the upfront cost, the owners might still have to weather an increase, she explained, but the hope is that the lot rent will eventually stabilize. 

O’Banion and other housing advocates argued mobile-home park residents still need additional help from state and federal agencies to compete with the deep pockets and aggressive management of investors looking to take advantage of these communities. 

State Sen. Kevin Van de Wege, who’s from Sequim, introduced Senate Bill 5697 this year to prohibit mobile-home community rent increases larger than the rate of inflation, give the state Utilities and Transportation Commission new authority to regulate rates and services in those communities, and fine landlords up to $100,000 for violating the limits. The proposed legislation didn’t pass. 

O’Banion said her organization and other advocates will continue working with legislators to push for additional policies, such as rent stabilization, to ensure continued affordability for manufactured-home owners.

“Manufactured homes must be preserved, maintained, and developed as part of the landscape of affordable housing,” she said.  

Source: Crosscut.com, a non-profit Pacific Northwest news site. It’s part of Cascade Public Media.


Of the 56 mobile home communities in Washington owned by Hurst and Son, six are in Pierce and King counties:

  • Sunrise Terrace Community, on Chambers Creek Road West in University Place.
  • Seacoma Community, on outh 268th Street in Des Moines.
  • Maple Lane Community, on Maple Lane South in Kent.
  • Laurel Lane Community, on 96th Street South in Tacoma.
  • Northwest Community, on San Francisco Avenue Southwest in Lakewood.
  • Cottonwood Community, on 80th Avenue East in Puyallup.

Four more are in Kitsap County—Olympic View Community in Olalla and, in Bremerton, Rocky Point Community, Pinewood Park, and Aero Community. The 56 total locations are about evenly divided between the state’s west and east sides.

The company also own communities in Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and North Dakota.

‘Thank you for your service’ has added meaning for mental health of veterans


By Darin Davis 

As an Army National Guard veteran, I see Veterans Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of action.

There are 18.4 million veterans alive today who deserve our gratitude for their commitment to selflessly serve our nation. In turn, they also deserve the commitment of leaders, businesses, organizations and communities to support them in their time of need. This Veterans Day—Nov. 11–is an opportunity to remind our nation’s citizens about the challenges veterans may face both during and after their time in service. 

The primary enemy many veterans face after service is not war-related trauma, but loneliness, according to a study from Yale University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It may be difficult for some veterans to connect to the civilian world – they often feel misunderstood by those who haven’t experienced what they have. This can translate into social isolation, feelings of loneliness and disconnection, which can contribute to higher suicide risk among veterans. 

The veteran suicide rate currently is 57 percent higher than the national average. We know there is not a simple solution to this very complex challenge, which means we must all work together to face it. 

Health-related social needs play a huge role in mental and physical health and can contribute to a higher suicide risk. In my role at Humana, I see firsthand the impact social challenges can have on our aging veterans, in particular. In a 2022 survey of Humana Medicare members who are veterans or veteran spouses, many indicated struggles with financial strain, loneliness, food insecurity, transportation barriers, or housing insecurity. These factors are associated with anxiety, depression and PTSD – all risk factors for suicide. 

Helping veterans address these struggles may alleviate the negative impacts on health and wellness. We can do this by ensuring they have access to medical care, to include behavioral and clinical health, and by connecting them to community resources that can help with social needs. 

First, understanding inpatient and outpatient care that is available in the area and covered – whether it’s through the VA, employer insurance, or Medicare – is crucial. Outpatient care may include talk therapy, medication to support mental health, and care managers to provide guidance on the best type of care. 

Second, we must look beyond doctors and hospitals to address social needs through community support. Helping veterans remove barriers to healthy living and connecting to the right organizations can help lift them out of isolation and into community. Tools like the Humana Community Navigator, a free resource available to anyone, can help make the connection to local support services. 

To initiate change and make a real impact, we must work together as a community and as a nation to combat social risk factors to veteran suicide. If you want to say “Thank you for your service” this Veterans Day, find some small way to give back to the veterans in your community and be part of the solution.

Darin Davis is the regional veteran executive for Washington Humana.       

When it comes to picking a Medicare plan ….

By Julie Stroud
As a physician, the last thing I want is for a patient to make decisions about their health and well-being based on the cost of care and medication rather than their actual care needs.
Right now is a critical time for the over 1.4 million individuals in Washington who rely on Medicare for their health insurance. Evaluating your own healthcare needs can help you select a plan that will cover you when you need it the most and fit within your budget.
While it’s impossible to foresee all health issues that may require treatment, there are several things to consider during the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Annual Election Period (AEP), which ends Dec. 7:

  • Future health risks. In addition to making sure your plan covers your current health needs, speak to your doctor about health risks that may require additional treatment. For instance, if you have prediabetes, consider the potential for future diabetes management.
  • Prescription drug benefits. Prescription drug coverage is included in many Medicare Advantage plans, unlike Original Medicare. If you prefer Original Medicare, you can opt for a standalone Prescription Drug Plan through a private insurer. Prepare a list of your current medications to compare costs while choosing plans.
  • Doctors and hospitals. If you have a favorite doctor, ensure they accept your plan to avoid any additional expenses for out-of-network providers. Also understand if the plan requires referrals for specialized care.
  • Other benefits. Consider additional benefits that can positively impact your health and well-being. Medicare Advantage plans may include dental, vision, and hearing coverage; fitness programs; transportation to doctor visits; and even allowances that help eligible beneficiaries pay for healthy food and other essentials, like rent and utilities.
  • Costs. Different plans have different costs, so understand the full picture when comparing plans in your area. Look at monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for hospital stays and doctor visits. Also, pay attention to annual maximum out-of-pocket costs. If you reach the limit, you will pay nothing for covered services the rest of the year.
  • Quality. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reviews and rates all Medicare Advantage plans before the enrollment period each year to help consumers make informed decisions. Plans are rated on a scale of one to five, with one indicating poor performance and five indicating excellence.
    Your health insurance carrier is a partner that helps you get the care you need. If you are eligible for Medicare, take time to research your options and ensure you select the plan that best meets your personal health and financial needs.
    The Medicare Plan Finder at Medicare.gov can help compare plans and benefits and get an estimated cost for each plan. More information from Medicare is also available at 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, seven days a week (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048).

Dr. Julie Stroud is vice president of Health Services for Washington Humana, a Medicare Advantage organization.