American Behavioral Health Systems has gotten reprieve – for at least a year, anyway.
On Monday, the Department of Corrections announced it would extend its existing contract with the chemical dependency treatment center located in Spokane Valley. That means that the 173 jobs provided by ABHS – along with the $4.38 million estimated that is contributed to the Spokane Valley economy -- are safe for the time being.
“This is enormously good news for our community,” said 4th District Rep. Matt Shea in a statement he released shortly after the announcement. “The Spokane Valley has been trying to cope with job loss and has the 11th highest unemployment rate out of the 49 legislative districts in the state with nearly 5,000 out of work.
“We’ve been struggling with jobs going across the border to Idaho,” Shea added. “So to be able to save nearly 250 jobs with this contract staying in place is a tremendous victory, particularly for Spokane Valley.”
ABHS has two sites in Spokane County, one on Mission Avenue in Spokane Valley and another in the city of Spokane. Both locations provide counseling and drug-rehabilitation services for substance abuse. It also offers an alternative sentencing program through the state DOC.
A third ABHS facility is located in Chehalis in Lewis County. Seventy-five jobs would have been lost there, while another 113 were in jeopardy in Spokane Valley.
Just over two weeks ago, Craig Phillips, the executive director of ABHS, asked for the city of Spokane Valley’s help in drafting a letter of support for his agency.
The Spokane Valley ABHS site opened in 2007. It’s estimated that approximately 90 percent who participate in the treatment program have not been to jail prior to receiving the alternative sentencing court order and around 75 percent complete the program successfully.
In addition to the DOC contract, the agency also provides treatment and counseling to those sentenced from drug courts and low-income residents.
Still, without the DOC contract, Phillips said the ABHS locations would need to be closed or operate in a diminished capacity. That’s why when the company learned that the department had published a request for bid proposals, ABHS officials were a bit blindsided.
“It caught the company by surprise, and we were concerned because this could have cost jobs in our community,” Shea said, adding that he joined eight other legislators in drafting a letter to DOC Secretary Eldon Vail in support of ABHS back in April.
“ABHS has been an asset to the local area and has provided treatment services at a cost savings to the taxpayers of our state.”
DOC officials did indicate, however, that they plan to open up bidding for the contract next year.