South End getting first drug treatment center

Freeland will soon be home to the first medicaid-funded substance use disorder treatment facility on South Whidbey.

American Behavioral Health Systems is planning to open an office within a couple of weeks, according to Tony Prentice, director of ABHS.

“ABHS is glad we’re able to help the community and help those clients that need our help,” Prentice said.

The Spokane-based organization has clinics throughout the state of Washington. The Freeland location will offer outpatient services that will include group counseling and individual sessions. Clients will learn how to identify emotional triggers, coping skills and determine a relapse prevention plan, Prentice said.

Staff at the facility will also provide information about joining safe and sober support networks such as narcotics anonymous, about securing employment and provide support for getting into housing if necessary.

“Having access to treatment nearby is really important, especially for the population that might experience issues with transportation around busy work schedules,” said Skye Newkirk, behavioral health coordinator for Island County.

Clients who first get assessed and are determined to need services will be required to complete eight hours of group counseling a week and one individual session a week or more, as needed. After 12 weeks, patients who are making progress will be reduced to two group sessions a week along with the one individual session, said Prentice.

Newkirk worked with the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization to bring more chemical dependency treatment centers to Whidbey Island. Newkirk said the county recently found that 43 percent of Island County residents who needed substance use disorder treatment were traveling outside of the county for services.

That number is high compared to other counties in the region, where numbers were closer to 15 percent. He said another organization is planning on opening an office in Oak Harbor, but there are still a number of details that need to get worked out and it may be another six months before it opens.

ABHS is currently in the process of conducting interviews for staff members at the Freeland clinic.

“We’re just really excited to have a CD (chemical dependency) treatment agency opening on the South End,” said Newkirk. “It’s something that the community has asked for, for a really long time. It just makes sense to get the services to where the people are.”

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