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Recovery Center closure could cause chain reaction

The possible closure of the Kitsap Recovery Center in East Bremerton could start a chain reaction that threatens health services throughout the region and places additional strain on other agencies.

“If the detox program closes down, people with chemical-dependency problems will end up in hospital emergency rooms and the county jail,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown. “This will have a serious impact on the entire county.”

Last week the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners was informed by Personnel and Human Services Director Bert Furuta that Kitsap Recovery Center is in jeopardy of closing.

This results from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposed 2009-11 biennial budget, which calls for a 50 percent cut in funding for detoxification beds, inpatient beds and outpatient treatment services.

The proposed cuts would at the very least threaten the county’s ability to keep the facility open in around-the-clock mode and could result in the elimination of the only detoxification/crisis triage facility on the Kitsap/Olympic Peninsula.

Kitsap County Substance Abuse Coordinator Betsy Bosch has spent this week calculating funding needs. She has not been able to come up with a specific figure to maintain the service, as there are several variables. “We need to determine at what point we can afford to keep the facility open, or just close it down,” she said.

The county believes that the closure of the Recovery Center, if it happens, would put a strain on effective the response to the continuing challenges of methamphetamine, alcohol and other substance addictions, impacting the quality of life for families in Kitsap County.

One linked agency is the adult felony Drug Court, since two-thirds of the approximately 180 adult participants in judicially supervised treatment have their cases managed by counselors of the Recovery Center.

Due to budget cuts, the Drug Court is not currently accepting new admissions.

The Drug Court will celebrate 10 years of operation in April, and has been credited with saving money and decreasing stress on other agencies.

This is yet another illustration of the ripple effect that will result from the Recovery Center’s closure.

With the interrelation of local services, the Kitsap County Substance Abuse Advisory Board has sent a strongly worded letter to all local lawmakers, warning against the consequences of eliminating or curtailing facilities.

“We appreciate that you face difficult decisions regarding the budget during these unusual economic times,” the letter read. “But we request your support to maintain critical drug and alcohol treatment services for your community.

State Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) received the letter, and voiced her immediate support.

Angel, who was most recently South Kitsap commissioner, recalled that she had to continuously fight for funding of the recovery center in that capacity.

At the state level, this personal crusade has gained a political aspect. Angel said that a new bill that subsidizes same-sex partnerships could hijack the funds needs for this and other similar recovery-related programs.

Angel said she opposes the redefinition of marriage to include anything other than a man and a woman, while supporting the right to make personal choices.

Her resolve has strengthened as the idea of passing an $8 million domestic partnership bill in the face of a financial crisis “makes me think that we do not have our priorities straight.”

While Angel isn’t on any committees that directly address these issues, she has promised to make her voice heard about the costs and ramifications of what she perceives as an injustice.

“There are only so many dollars available in order to help people in this area,” she said. “If we don’t fund them, we will have the same people going through the process over and over, like a revolving door, and they will never come out.”

As members of the Kitsap Board of Commissioners, Angel and Brown were often on opposite sides of issues. Here, however, they agree: If the money isn’t found for the Recovery Center it will impact other agencies and only defer the payment of these expenses — at which point it will cost more.

Brown draws the analogy of a house in need of repair. If there is a leaky roof, the homeowner needs to patch the hole before it causes serious damage.

But if the house needs electrical or plumbing work, the roof just won’t get fixed.

“A lot of preventive programs that help to make our community safer just aren’t going to get funded this year,” he said.

Brown said the recovery center is “a great program where people are doing the right thing. To cut this is not only expensive, but it gets us away from our core mission to provide services.”

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