Former Welch Juice Factory to Serve as Intake for Future Behavioral Health and Recovery Center

Former Welch Juice Factory to Serve as Intake for Future Behavioral Health and Recovery Center

One of the biggest hurdles local leaders faced in trying to bring a new mental health treatment facility online was finding a site for short-term treatment.

But this problem has been solved.

The future Benton County Behavioral Health and Recovery Center will include two locations that straddle Washington Street in Kennewick, WA – one in the former Kennewick General Hospital building and the other in a facility on the East Bruneau Ave.

The two sites are approximately one kilometer apart.

Benton County will lease a portion of the former Welch Juice facility in downtown Kennewick that will serve as a future “no wrong door” admission for residents in mental health or addiction crisis. It will serve as a drop-off point for law enforcement, or a meeting point, for people who need to detox or who are in a mental health crisis.

The facility is at 10 East Bruneau Avenue, Benton County Deputy Administrator Matt Rasmussen said. It is unclear which of the buildings on the site they would rent.

The county recently approved the sale agreement to purchase the former 190,000 square foot KGH facility, but with a stipulation that prohibits inpatient adult mental health care longer than 72 hours for adults on the site.

The Bruneau facility will serve short-term stays with about 32 beds on site, Rasmussen said. But before that, it will have to undergo a substantial renovation which can take up to two years.

“It’s something that was needed in this community. That doesn’t mean there aren’t programs in the community, but they don’t meet all the needs,” he said.

Mayors, city staff and county officials celebrated the acquisition of KGH with a 5-minute press conference Thursday morning to provide an overview of the project.

The long-awaited project is being funded with $9 million in state legislature grants and $5 million in funding from Benton County’s American Rescue Plan Act. A 0.1% sales tax increase in Benton and Franklin counties will fund center operations.

When fully open, the new Benton County Behavioral Health and Recovery Center will provide treatment assessment, medical withdrawal rehab, residential facility treatment, recovery housing, job training assistance and services for young people.

“Today is a great day for all of the Tri-Cities. We are all going to benefit from this center,” said Dr. Michele Gerber, president of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition, wearing a button of her son’s face on her brown Tommy Hilfiger sweater. James Stenehjem died of addiction eight years ago, aged 36.

“We’re going to have less crime, less jail and court costs, less hospitalization costs, and shorter wait times in hospitals and ERs as frequent overdose cases are expected to decline,” a- she continued.

Gerber said “thousands of treatment dollars” leave the Tri-Cities each year, and the recovery center will serve as a magnet for families who otherwise must seek treatment in western Washington or out of state. . This will strengthen the economy, she said.

“And all of these benefits are in addition to the benefits that will immediately accrue to dependents and their families.” The Tri-Cities deserve big things, and this center is going to be awesome,” she said.

On average, a Tri-City resident dies every five days from addiction, Gerber said. This does not include the many people who die each year from other conditions, such as kidney failure or infections caused by used needles.

About 70% of people who struggle with addiction also work, Gerber said.

Benton County is currently soliciting requests for proposals for the recovery center, with a Dec. 9 deadline.

Rasmussen said the KGH building is not “move-in ready”, but it is a decent building and the renovations will not be substantial.

Benton County plans to open its recovery center in early 2025. Some services will likely be offered sooner.

Services provided at the hospital building

The county is considering a mental health and addictions recovery services campus, with providers recruited to rent space in the Auburn Street building.

Plans now include transitional housing for people coming out of recovery, Rasmussen said.

The county would also like to have behavioral health services for young people there. The 72-hour restriction on inpatient mental health services only applies to adults.

The county will first seek providers for these two services.

The advice and other services provided there will depend on who is interested in renting a space.

The county also negotiated permission to use space there for the Benton Franklin Health District, though no decision on moving services has been made.

This story was originally published November 17, 2022 4:53 p.m.

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Eric Rosane is a civic responsibility reporter who joined the Tri-City Herald in February 2022. He previously worked for the Daily Chronicle in Lewis County, covering education, county government and the Legislature . He graduated from Central Washington University in 2018.


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