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Sea Mar takes over troubled Recovery Services in Island County

Sea Mar staff MarkNaughton, Emmanual Montenegro, Antonio Sosa and Dave Allen hope the new organization will move past the mistakes made by Island County Recovery Services.  - Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Sea Mar staff MarkNaughton, Emmanual Montenegro, Antonio Sosa and Dave Allen hope the new organization will move past the mistakes made by Island County Recovery Services.
— image credit: Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Mark MacNaughton saw the highs and the lows of Island County’s addiction recovery efforts.

MacNaughton, formerly the county’s program manager, sat next to Island County Human Services Director Jackie Henderson as county leadership outlined Recovery Service’s mistakes and missteps, and ordered the pair to relinquish management to a private organization.

“It was grueling,” MacNaughton said.

The contract for Recovery Services was taken over by Sea Mar last week after errors and non-compliant practices came to light within the county agency earlier this year.

Island County Superior Court judges Alan Hancock and Vickie Churchill, Prosecutor Greg Banks and Court Administrator Brooke Powell each said that the problems with Recovery Services were pervasive and that their confidence in program was “broken.”

A moratorium was placed on the acceptance of any new Drug Court clients until “a reliable and effective treatment provider” was found.

Banks said the moratorium was lifted Oct. 11 once the contract was awarded to Sea Mar.

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that the treatment will meet the needs of the county,” Banks said.

Among errors discovered at Island County Recovery Services, state regulators discovered that MacNaughton allowed his counseling credential to expire for a few weeks, and a public records request revealed Recovery Services was under the close eye of state regulators for at least a year.

Henderson initially refused to begin the process of replacing the troubled Island County Recovery Services with a private chemical dependency agency, but later reversed her position.

MacNaughton conceded that Island County, which took over the program two and a half years ago, “stumbled from the beginning,” and that the “trial-and-error” approach resulted in unfortunate consequences.

MacNaughton, one of only three Island County employees hired by Sea Mar, will function as a counselor only, not in his former role as program manager.

MacNaughton said he’s hoping Sea Mar’s structure will allow addiction recovery efforts to thrive in Island County.

“I’m very excited for the change,” MacNaughton said. “Sea Mar is a big company, well established and well structured.”

Katherine Scott, Sea Mar north regional behavior health director, said the company put a lot of thought into its decision to hire MacNaughton and two other staffers.

“We felt that we were comfortable with the hires and where there were issues had more to do with structure and systems,” Scott said.

Sea Mar, which also operates medical and dental clinics throughout Northwest Washington, has a long history working with county drug courts and operating 16 behavior health clinics, Scott said.

“We want a fresh start and establish our name and services and not be affiliated to what happened in the past,” Scott said.

Sea Mar hired Emmanuel Montenegro, a recently-retired Navy master chief, to run the Recovery Services program.

Montenegro has 30 years experience working with the Navy in community health administration.

While Sea Mar technically opened its doors Dec. 2, it cannot provide services until the state re-certifies the location.

Meanwhile, Montenegro said they are staying in contact with approximately 150 patients to offer support and refer them to local resources as needed.

“I’m looking forward to serving the community,” Montenegro said.

“My vision is to grow in volume and also in scope of services.”

 

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