Columbia Wellness

Columbia Wellness staff prepare for the mid-February opening of its new facility in Longview. Fifteen to 20 people will work in the clinic. 

Columbia Wellness is opening a new voluntary detox treatment and crisis services center that the managers say will give patients a better chance of beating addiction.

The Wellness and Recovery Center in Longview is set to open by mid-February, about two weeks later than had been expected. It offers much-needed drug and alcohol withdrawal management treatment and a crisis support unit, said CEO David McClay.

The services are a part of the organization’s efforts to make sure people get the help they need from start to finish.

“It’s a way of treating people in the community and ... spin them off on a different trajectory,” McClay said.

Columbia Wellness is a nonprofit agency that offers mental health, substance use disorder and crisis services in Cowlitz and Grays Harbor counties.

Cowlitz County has one of the highest percentages of overdoses per capita in the state, something McClay said Columbia Wellness is trying to help change.

“There’s a need in our community,” he said.

The facility includes eight withdrawal management beds and eight crisis beds. Those receiving withdrawal treatment will typically stay three to five days. Length of stay on the crisis side will depend more heavily on each individual’s needs. McClay said he expects beds to fill up quickly.

Cost of services will depend on each patient’s insurance, McClay said. Medicaid will likely cover the whole cost for low-income patients, while some plans may require a patient co-pay, he said.

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The facility is part of a multi-layered approach to care, McClay said. When they leave, clients will not be discharged to the streets, he said, and many receiving withdrawal services will go on to a rehabilitation facility for more treatment. Clients will also get reconnected with other providers and “get where they need to go,” McClay said.

“It’s important to realize it’s not one shoe fits all. We try to serve them in the way they need to be served,” McClay said.

The new facility is on the renovated ground floor of 720 14th Ave., a location the organization bought from Lower Columbia Pathologists in 2017. Children and family services are on the second floor.

The project was mostly funded by a $2 million U.S. Department of Commerce grant supporting a statewide attempt to expand mental health services, McClay said. The center was originally planned to open Friday but was delayed because it hadn’t received its state license, he said.

Columbia Wellness has hired 15 to 20 new staff members to run the facility, he said, including registered nurses. McClay said the state requires this type of facility to only have licensed practical nurses (LPNs), but they wanted to bring on higher-credentialed staff that can provide more services.

Chief operations officer Tina Slunaker said having RNs on staff will help keep people out of the hospital. Columbia Wellness works closely with PeaceHealth St. John, and she said the hospital is excited about this unit, too.

McClay said the facility should help alleviate congestion at the emergency room, where patients going through withdrawal or crisis often end up. Many also end up in jail or somewhere else their needs aren’t met, he said.

To help clients have a better chance of success, Columbia Wellness recently leased three houses to be run by Oxford House where residents can stay for 30 days to help ease their transition out of detox treatment, Slunaker said. The program should help prevent people from being discharged to the streets and back into bad situations, she said.

Quoting a Seattle peer counselor, McClay said, “You can detox people from drugs, but you also have to detox them from their lives.”

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