By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Sally Beaven, director of Specialty Services, which hopes to open a 16-bed, abstinence-based chemical dependency treatment center for Medicaid adults at the corner of Fifth and Race streets, said there is a “great need” for such a facility on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“We are here looking for your support as a community,” Beaven told about 40 who gathered for a two-hour informational meeting at the proposed site at 825 E. Fifth Street.
If approved by the city, Specialty Services would become the only inpatient chemical dependency treatment center on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“We've come to fill a need,” Beaven said.
Most of the speakers at the informal gathering were supportive of a 30-day treatment center that would operate in the former Port Angeles Care Center.
Others questioned the location of the planned treatment center, which sits in a residential area near two city parks, Civic Field and the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.
“I don't want [patients] coming across the street and stealing my stuff,” one neighbor said.
Craig Phillips, business manager for Spokane-based American Behavioral Health Systems, which started Specialty Services as an independent pilot project, said he purchased the 22,000-square-foot former nursing home because it was affordable.
“We always do everything we can to make it as safe to the community as possible,” Phillips added.
Lacie, a recovering addict and former patient at the American Behavioral Health Systems treatment centers in Chehalis and Spokane, said drugs are being sold at parks and grocery store parking lots in Port Angeles.
“Treatment people are safe,” she said.
“It's the people on our streets that you need to be worried about.”
The city Planning Commission will hear public comment and vote on a conditional-use permit application for the proposed treatment center next Wednesday.
If the treatment center is ultimately approved by the City Council, patients would be referred to Specialty Services by a network of outpatient providers on the Peninsula.
“Running the numbers, I estimate that there are about 2,000 people in this community, in Clallam County, who are on Medicaid who need chemical dependency treatment,” said Jude Anderson, Clallam County treatment coordinator.
She added: “Jefferson County has an enormous need. They, too, only have outpatient programs.”
Specialty Services patients would attend daily group therapy meetings and lectures. One-on-one counseling would be available.
“Because it is only 16 beds, we can manage it very well,” said Beaven, who recently moved to Port Angeles after managing Specialty Services 1 in Spokane.
“It's a lot of individual treatment.”
A case manager would help patients find housing, outpatient providers and abstinence support meetings at the end of their inpatient stay.
“We'd like to eventually create some sort of family networking program because it affects everybody,” Beaven said.
The state Legislature allocated $2.6 million in start up funds for eight 16-bed non-Institutions for Mental Disease inpatient treatment centers around the state, Phillips said.
“We ended up with $450,000 to purchase the building and remodel it to provide treatment in it and get it started,” Phillips said.
Seven other 16-bed treatment centers will eventually open around the state, Phillips added.
If more funding becomes available, Specialty Services in Port Angeles would consider opening a separate 16-bed detoxification center, in addition to the treatment center, on the same site, Beaven said.
Although the closest detox center is in Kitsap County, the Clallam County jail and Olympic Medical Center emergency room serve as detox centers “by default,” Anderson said.
Peninsula Behavioral Health plans to open a six-bed mental health crisis stabilization unit later this year.
Specialty Services would focus only on chemical dependency.
Its patients would sign a release of information at check-in, which would allow staff to alert law enforcement when someone leaves the voluntary program.
Transportation costs would be provided.
Staff would be on duty 24 hours a day, and patients would not leave the building without an escort, Beaven said.
Sex offenders would not be eligible for the program.
'Understand the fear'
“I understand the fear,” Beaven told neighbors.
“I understand the concern, seriously. You guys are afraid that people are going to be bused in here and they're just going to be dumped off. But I really am telling you that that isn't the way that it works.”
Reflections Counseling Services Director Gayle McCormick said it takes one to two months to find an inpatient bed for her outpatient clients.
“I know from 30 years of experience that if there's no inpatient treatment on the Peninsula, then the 16 beds will be full all the time,” Phillips said.
Danetta Rutten, a former Clallam County probation officer, said there is “nothing to fear” about a treatment center.
“And I live in this neighborhood, too,” Rutten said.
“We have more to fear about what's on the corner and what's walking the street not in treatment than we have to fear with people that are in treatment.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.