County will continue to provide drug and alcohol treatment, even at a reduced levelCounty officials are searching for a new drug and alcohol treatment provider after learning that the agency now offering those services is quitting.

Tualatin Valley Centers informed the county Monday that it will end its contract June 30.

The Portland-based agency pointed to a sharp drop in state funding and insurance payments as the reason for its decision to leave Clatsop County after 31/2 years.

The private agency offers substance abuse counseling and other services for low-income clients through a contract with the county. The services are funded by the state of Oregon, but budget cuts have reduced the funding almost by half, while cuts to the Oregon Health Plan have eliminated coverage for drug and alcohol services for many of its other clients.

"Alcohol and drug services have been hit hardest of any entity in the state," said Clatsop County Health and Human Services Director Don Schreiner.

Options that county officials are studying include finding a new agency or individual counselors to take over the work, leaving the service to the state, or having the county take over the program itself. The county commissioners will be presented with the choices April 28.

Schreiner said he'll recommend that the county become licensed to offer treatment services itself in the event no other option works out, but said he hopes that another private contractor can be found to replace Tualatin Valley. Whatever the final choice, he emphasized that the county is committed to continuing drug and alcohol treatment even at a reduced level.

"Even though the services have been damaged with the lack of funding, the services will still be provided, either by ourselves or another contractor," he said.

Tualatin Valley provides outpatient counseling for adults and some adolescents, and handles local drunk-driving offenders. The company's departure had been "on the table" since the defeat of the income tax initiative, ballot Measure 28, early last year, Schreiner said. "That's when they really started to feel the loss."

Two years ago, the county received $182,000 a year to fund treatment services for indigent clients through Tualatin Valley, an amount that's been cut to a little over $100,000. The Oregon Health Plan also eliminated mental health and substance abuse treatment for "Standard" plan clients, cutting off coverage to many of the agency's other customers. Altogether the cuts cost Tualatin Valley about 40 percent of its revenue from Clatsop County.

The OHP cuts, which took effect in early 2003, were the most damaging, said Tualatin Valley CEO Mary Monnat. The agency cut expenses and in the fall closed its Seaside office and laid off the staff, but it simply doesn't have the diversity of funding sources in Clatsop County it has for its services in the metro area, she said. It expects to lose almost $100,000 this year from its local operations.

"We just looked at it, and decided it was not viable," she said.

The agency's client base has dropped by almost half from 120-130 thanks to the cuts, and there are almost as many people on the waiting list as are currently in treatment, Schreiner said.

Tualatin Valley was awarded the substance abuse treatment contract in September 2000 after the county commissioners decided to end their arrangement with a local company, Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare. That agency had been cited by state regulators the year before for compliance violations and put on probation.

In 2001, another local treatment provider, Heron Outpatient Counseling, closed its doors after state regulators found the agency out of compliance with several regulations.

Tualatin Valley will work to make the transition to another provider smooth, and hasn't ruled out staying in Clatsop County if some solution to the funding dilemma is found, Monnat said.

"We would love to stay," she said. "The need's there, trust me."

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