Home USA News Benton Co., Wash., purchased the mental health building

Benton Co., Wash., purchased the mental health building

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Benton County purchased the former Kennewick General Hospital to house the rehabilitation center program.

Benton County purchased the former Kennewick General Hospital to house the rehabilitation center program.

Tri-City Herald file

Benton County’s recent acquisition of the former Kennewick General Hospital (KGH) is a great achievement for the Tri-Cities and the entire region! The old hospital will be renovated to become part of a comprehensive rehabilitation center for drug addiction and mental illness. Another property is slated to be leased soon as part of a two-property master plan.

Rehab facilities are desperately needed because we know that drug addiction and mental illness fuel much of the crime in our region. In addition, national statistics show that 70-75 percent of people with active drug addiction work. In workplaces, they can cause low productivity, security threats, gossip, and sometimes fear.

The new rehabilitation center will benefit ALL residents of our region — not only dependent and mentally ill people and their families. Imprisonment and law enforcement costs will decrease as crime and recidivism decrease if affected people receive treatment; public health insurance costs and hospital emergency room wait times will decrease as the number of repeat emergency room visits by addicted people decreases; employers who provide treatment to their employees will save money by not sending people far away to treatment facilities; and many thousands of dollars spent annually on treatment will remain in the Tri-Cities.

The recovery center will also provide jobs in construction, behavioral health, and additional support services. In addition, public safety and hygiene will be improved in obvious ways.

The Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition (BFRC), a grassroots group of local citizen volunteers, has worked for more than four years to create a Tri-Cities Recovery Center, and we are incredibly excited to see this vision become a reality. Addiction is a real disease, not just intentional bad behavior, and it is treatable. Addiction treatment is healthcare, plain and simple. Given a chance, many people recover and lead productive lives. Approximately 22 million Americans are in recovery from addiction, or one in 16 people.

Now that we have the funds to rebuild, we all have a lot of work to do.

Fundraising is always important. Benton County raised $14.25 million to renovate the two old buildings that will make up the Center (including $5 million of the county’s own funds). But more funding is needed, both from public sources through the work of our legislators and from private donations.

Many costs of a high-quality rehabilitation center may not be eligible for government funding, such as recreational sports equipment; music and art facilities; financing of family activities and many other services. We will call upon the ever-generous Tri-Cities community to support these needs. In addition, there will be volunteer opportunities that may include landscape cleanup or other work that can be done by church groups, community groups, and others.

This recovery center will belong to all of us in this area and we are so lucky to have it. Let’s rejoice and celebrate a little, and then get down to business. Congratulations and thank you Benton County!

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