Trios Health is moving its birthing center to Southridge, a move that could accelerate plans to transform the former Kennewick General Hospital into a detoxification and recovery center for Tri-Citians facing drug addiction and mental health disorders.
If everything comes together, the birthing center and Two Rivers Rehabilitation Center both will open by mid-2022.
LifePoint Health’s $22 million investment in a birthing center at Trios Southridge Hospital comes as Tri-City officials pursue funds to develop a recovery center at the old downtown Kennewick hospital or, failing that, on bare land near the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center on Canal Drive in Kennewick.
The Kennewick Public Hospital District is raising money to fund its $1.6 million agreement to buy the former hospital from LifePoint Health, the current owner.
Additionally, Benton County applied for a $2.5 million direct appropriation from the 2021 Legislature to support design work for either location. Benton County’s involvement doesn’t mean the old hospital plan is dead, said Matt Rasmussen, deputy administrator.
The county wants to see the recovery center move ahead, he said. If the hospital district can’t close the Auburn Street deal, the project could be built on three county-owned acres near the juvenile facility.
Rasmussen said the county stepped in to ensure the project advances.
He characterized its relationship with the hospital district as collaborative. So did Lee Kerr, the hospital district’s superintendent.
Kerr said Benton County wants to be in charge of funding for what could be a $15 million project, which suits the hospital district. Two possible sites increase the odds a recovery center will get built.
“We don’t mind having more than one torpedo in the water,” he said.
The state Department of Health has confirmed the hospital district does not need a certificate of need to convert the old hospital and referred the project to its licensing division.
Converting the hospital to a recovery center depends on many steps. But moving the birth center to Southridge is key.
Trios is building a two-story, 23,376-square-foot addition above the first-floor surgery department with connections to the second and third floors. An additional 9,970 square feet in the hospital building is renovated as part of the project.
The addition will unite all Trios hospital operations at Southridge.
The hospital district owned and operated the hospital on Auburn Street but lost it after it filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after taking on debt to construct the Southridge hospital. A predecessor to LifePoint bought those assets in a bankruptcy auction.
The hospital district has $600,000 banked for the effort and is seeking local, state and federal support for the balance.
Need for recovery center
The Tri-Cities is the only community of size in Washington that lacks a recovery center to help addicts and people who need detoxification services. Supporters say it will provide services that people must travel out of area to receive and keep the millions of treatment dollars in town. Operating costs are covered by Medicare and insurance companies.
The other big obstacle is identifying an entity to operate the center.
In yet another twist of fate, LifePoint is a potential candidate. Its head of behavioral health services has visited with local officials. LifePoint operates mental health services through its other Tri-City holding, Lourdes Medical Center.
Discussions are preliminary, but if LifePoint were to operate Twin Rivers, it would reduce friction over competition from a newcomer.
Kerr said the need for treatment is only increasing as the Covid-19 pandemic increases isolation and problems for people with chemical dependency and mental illness.
“We are literally in the middle of an opioid epidemic,” he said. “Come to one place, be appropriately assessed and provided with treatment.”
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