Craig Phillips spoke before the Spokane Valley City Council last week, stating his case for a local agency that could be moving some 150 miles to the southwest.
Phillips, the executive director of American Behavioral Health Systems, is hoping the potential shift – which he said would represent an annual loss of around $4.38 million to the Spokane Valley economy – does not occur. Currently, ABHS has two sites in Spokane County, one on Mission Avenue in Spokane Valley and another in the city of Spokane. Both venues provide counseling and rehabilitation for substance abuse as part of an alternative sentencing program facilitated by the Washington state Department of Corrections.
Housed in the former site of the Good Samaritan Assisted Living Center on Mission Avenue near Pines Road, American Behavioral Health Systems provides counseling and rehabilitation for substance abuse through an alternative sentencing program with the state Department of Corrections. ABHS is currently facing competition from other treatment providers in a bid to continue the DOC contract. Photo by: Craig Howard
A third ABHS facility is located in the Westside city of Chehalis in Lewis County.
Phillips told council members at the June 14 meeting that ABHS is currently waiting on a decision to emerge from a request for proposals concerning the DOC contract. ABHS is bidding against agencies like Pioneer and Spectrum for the work, which could include a move to the Yakima Correctional Center, a 288-bed facility built by Yakima County in 2007, but currently not in use.
In requesting a letter of support from the city of Spokane Valley, Phillips described how ABHS has been the only provider of the program since it began and continues to be the most experienced, and economical, route for DOC.
Phillips acknowledged that the building in Yakima – originally constructed to house inmates from King County – was being considered as a replacement for all three of the ABHS sites.
“They have this empty jail in Yakima County and there’s a chance they’ll move the program down there,” he said.
Ed Campbell, directory of the Yakima County Department of Corrections, described the Correctional Center as a “pod-type” facility with a modern kitchen and full laundry. The kitchen is currently the only part of the building in operation, providing meals for the main Yakima County Jail, a 700-bed facility.
Campbell said the building has been vacant since January when contracts with King County cities like Seattle, Renton, Auburn and Des Moines were not renewed. He acknowledged that DOC has inquired about the possibility of leasing the facility.
“The state has looked at the building,” Campbell said.
The Spokane Valley ABHS site opened in 2007 and currently employs 113 people while the Spokane location has a staff of 75. Between salaries, property taxes, insurance, utilities, food supplies and other expenditures, Phillips estimates that the agency brings in around $6.33 million annually to the Spokane County economy.
Phillips noted that ABHS has received bipartisan support from legislators in Spokane County and Lewis County in its campaign to keep the DOC contract. At the end of Phillips’ presentation last week, the City Council reached a consensus on drafting a letter of support on the agency’s behalf.
Approximately 90 percent of those who go through the ABHS program have not been to jail prior to receiving the alternative sentencing court order, Phillips said. Around 75 percent complete the program. In addition to the DOC contract, the agency also provides treatment and counseling to those sentenced from drug courts and low-income residents through state funding.
John Nispel, a senior contracts attorney with DOC, said the state “was still in the middle of the process” but should have a decision on the RFP later this month or by early July. He noted that while the current contract with ABHS expired at the end of June, the agreement “would be extended for at least 90 days” regardless of the RFP outcome.
“We’re just trying to determine the best provider at the most efficient cost,” Nispel said.