Island County takes on drug, alcohol treatment program

Island County is going into the business of treating people with substance abuse problems.

Jackie Henderson, the director of the county’s Department of Human Services, recently received the blessing of all three county commissioners to move ahead with starting a new treatment program for people with drug or alcohol addiction.

“It’s a choice of going in this direction or not having a publicly funded treatment program on the island,” she said.

Normally, counties contract with nonprofit groups or businesses to provide the drug-and-alcohol treatment services to the community. The counties enter into two-year contracts with the state Department of Social and Health Services; the county provides the treatment program and the state provides the cash.

But this year, the county received no responses from a request for proposal for the treatment program. With continued cuts in state funding year after year, Henderson said, many “small non-profits and for-profits” can no longer afford to provide the service.

“They are being nickled and dimed to death,” she said.

Henderson said the county should receive between $800,000 and $900,000 for the next two-year program, while the state used to provide more than $1 million a year. No county money will be used to fund the program.

The choice, Henderson explained, was to either forego the funding and provide no treatment program in the county — which means most people would have to travel to neighboring counties — or create a new county program. She said there’s currently only one, part-time treatment provider in the county.

Many other counties, especially the smaller ones, have already started county-run substance abuse programs because officials can no longer find  businesses or organizations willing to contract, she said.

According to Henderson, the county’s substance abuse treatment is offered on a sliding scale based on a person’s income. Some of the people in the program are court ordered to get help, while most seek help on their own.

Henderson said she believes her office will be able to provide a treatment program, while a private entity cannot, because the county already has the administrative infrastructure in place.

“Whether we will be able to pull it off in the long run, I don’t know,” she said.

Seven new county employees will be hired to run the program. They will include a program manager, four chemical dependency professionals, an administrative assistant and a reception / data entry person. The therapy will be provided at the location — behind Seabolts on Highway 20 in Oak Harbor — that the current provider, Phoenix Recovery, operates from.



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