One of the biggest hurdles local leaders faced in their attempt to bring a new mental health treatment facility online was finding a location for short-term treatment.
But this problem is solved.
The future Benton County Behavioral Health and Recovery Center will include two locations spanning Washington Street in Kennewick, WA — one in the old Kennewick General Hospital building and the other at a facility on East Bruneau Avenue.
The two locations are about a mile apart.
Benton County will lease a portion of the old Welch juice facility in downtown Kennewick, which will serve as a future “No Wrong Door” reception for residents who have a mental health or drug crisis. It will serve as a focal point for law enforcement or as a focal point for people who need to detox or are in a mental health crisis.
The facility is at 10 East Bruneau Ave., said Benton County Vice Administrator Matt Rasmussen. It’s unclear which of the buildings on the site they would rent.
The county recently approved the purchase agreement to buy the old 190,000-square-foot KGH facility, but with a provision prohibiting adult inpatient adult mental health care on the premises for more than 72 hours.
The Bruneau facility will serve short-term stays with an estimated 32 on-site beds, Rasmussen said. Before that, however, it must undergo a major renovation that may take up to two years.
“It’s something that’s needed in this community. That’s not to say there aren’t programs in the community, but they don’t meet all the needs,” he said.
Mayors, city employees and county officials celebrated the acquisition of KGH Thursday morning with a 5-minute press conference to get a bird’s-eye view of the project.
The long-awaited project will be funded with $9 million in grants from the state Legislature and $5 million in funds from the Benton County American Rescue Plan Act. A Sales tax increase of 0.1% in Benton and Franklin counties will finance the operation of the center.
Once fully open, the new Benton County Behavioral Health and Recovery Center will offer treatment assessments, medical rehabilitation care, inpatient care, recovery housing, vocational training support and youth services.
“It’s a great day for the entire Tri-Cities. We will all benefit from this center,” said Dr. Michele Gerber, President of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition, who wore a button with her son’s face on her maroon Tommy Hilfiger sweater. James Stenehjem died of addiction eight years ago at the age of 36.
“We will have less crime, lower jail and court costs, lower hospital costs, and shorter waits in hospitals and emergency rooms as frequent overdose cases should decrease,” she continued.
Gerber said “thousands of treatment dollars” leave the Tri-Cities each year, and the recovery center will serve as a magnet for families who would otherwise need treatment in western Washington or out of state. That will boost the economy, she said.
“And all of these benefits are on top of the benefits that will immediately accrue to people who are addicted and their families. The Tri-Cities deserve great things and this center will be great,” she said.
On average, one Tri-City resident dies from addiction every five days, Gerber said. That doesn’t include the many people who die each year from other diseases, such as kidney failure or infections from used needles.
About 70 percent of people who battle addiction also work, Gerber said.
Benton County is currently soliciting recovery center proposals with a December 9 deadline.
Rasmussen said the KGH building is not yet “move-ready” but it is a suitable building and renovations will not be significant.
Benton County plans to open its recovery center in early 2025. Some services are likely to be offered sooner.
Services planned in the hospital building
The county envisions a campus for mental health and addiction healing services, with vendors recruited to lease space in the Auburn Street building.
Plans now include it including transitional housing for people coming out of recovery, Rasmussen said.
The county also wants to have behavioral health services for youth there. The 72-hour limit for inpatient mental health services applies only to adults.
The county will initially look for providers for these two services.
The advice and services offered there are based on who is interested in renting space.
The county has also negotiated permission to use some land there for the Benton Franklin Health District, although no decision has been made to move services there.
This story was originally published Nov 17, 2022 4:53 p.m.