I am writing in response to statements made by Oak Harbor City Council member, Mayor Pro Tem Beth Munns during the Jan. 4 council meeting.
During the discussion of a proposed Island County tax initiative, Ms. Munns voiced concerns over operations of the Ituha Stabilization Center, located at 275 NE 10th Ave Oak Harbor. The neighborhood facility is advertised as a public alcohol and drug detox center, intended to serve, Island, Skagit and San Juan counties. The facility is operated through the auspices of Pioneer Human Services, a large diverse nonprofit organization specializing in criminal rehabilitation with reported annual revenues (2020) of over $75 million dollars.
Mayor PT Munns stated clients had the option of leaving the facility at their own free will days, or even hours after admission, among adjacent neighborhoods and questioned whether adequate controls were being utilized. Though specific counties were not mentioned, concerns were expressed over the recruitment of off-island clients, with the potential of increasing local transient populations and exhausting local resources.
The issues were stated within the context of information gathered during “police ride alongs, and word on the street” law enforcement sources who to their credit, have demonstrated benevolence toward transient populations, with frequent courtesy rides and other services. Their concerns are relevant, particularly in light of recent legislation limiting enforcement controls on illegal drug distribution and high recidivism rates.
The operating practices and release controls of a treatment center serving short-term detox clients is of high interest to Oak Harbor citizens, particularly those residing in adjacent neighborhoods that, by county design, had little voice in the property selection, which despite it’s provocative nature, was quietly purchased and earmarked without a due process of citizen engagement or, according to Mayor PT Munns, consultation with Oak Harbor officials.
Beyond this, the city council in its own right, missed opportunities to proactively engage Pioneer Human Services staff before the center opened or apparently at any point since.
Now that Mayor PT Munns has publicly raised concerns over operations of the center, the city council has a duty to explore actual operating practices. In reality, the Ituha Stabilization Center may indeed be high functioning and operating in the best interests of Oak Harbor residents and if so, deserve praise, but if the opposite is true, then operational changes must occur.