The Kennewick Public Hospital District is considering whether it could play a role in bringing in-patient treatment and recovery for addiction to the Tri-Cities.
It is looking at the Trios hospital on Auburn Street near downtown Kennewick — the Trios Women’s and Children’s Hospital — as a possible site for the treatment, under preliminary plans.
The hospital board’s understanding is that the new owner of Trios, LifePoint Health, is interested in expanding at the Trios’ Southridge location, where the new hospital is located. That eventually could make the downtown property available for sale.
The hospital district, while it no longer has any hospitals, remains a municipal corporation that collects property taxes of about $1.4 million a year.
Under the agreement it made to transfer assets of the district under a bankruptcy plan to RCCH Healthcare Partners — which now is LifePoint Health — the hospital district will continue to provide wellness and health care services not offered by LifePoint Health locally.
The hospital district currently retains about 20 percent of the property taxes collected and 80 percent goes to LifePoint for costs such as providing indigent care and for resolving Medicare billing disputes for past hospital service.
The concession was key to allowing the sale of Trios to proceed and to maintain hospital services in Kennewick.
The proposal to help provide addiction treatment and recovery services in the Tri-Cities is in its early stages.
But hospital district officials have been invited to brief the Kennewick City Council at its workshop meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8.
The hospital district board has had a walk through of the Auburn Street hospital building with a representative of the Washington state Department of Health to see if the building could be repurposed.
The assessment was relatively positive, said hospital district President Gary Long.
The next step will be a feasibility study, and the district has received proposals, he said.
The study would provide an in-depth look at possible services and costs.
“We want to be 99 percent sure it would be financially viable,” Long said.
As a municipal corporation the hospital district could be in a better position than others to serve as the landlord of a treatment facility, he said. Federal, state or possibly county funds might be available for the project.
There also have been informal discussions between the hospital district board and the nonprofit Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition.
There is a need for detox and in-patient services in the Tri-Cities, said Michele Gerber, president of the nonprofit coalition.
Tri-Cities treatment need
The coalition’s dream is to have a bicounty recovery center modeled after the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, although the coalition would stick with education and advocacy and not own, manage or finance the center.
Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher said this spring that the Tri-Cities is the only major metropolitan area in Eastern Washington without a detox center.
Yakima has four detox centers, with at least one center also offering continuing inpatient service, and Spokane has six detox centers and also some inpatient treatment centers.
Those Yakima and Spokane services help many Tri-City residents, with others going to Seattle, California, Boise and elsewhere, Gerber said.
Hospitals do not typically admit patients for addiction treatment, only treating physical symptoms such as pancreatitis and then discharging them, Gerber said.
Tri-City people seeking to enter a treatment system immediately must call around the state and too often may have to wait days, giving them time to change their mind, she said.
Out-of-town treatment also limits therapy, making it difficult for family members to participate, for example.
“Addiction is a real disease and we need to treat it as such,” Gerber said. It is not fair that local residents have to leave the area for services at a time when health care services are expanding in the Tri-Cities.