PARKERSBURG - On a 2-1 vote Monday, Wood County commissioners agreed to approve a new agreement with Westbrook Health Services.
The one-year contract goes to Westbrook for approval. The new agreement allows Westbrook to continue leasing the county-owned facility which houses Amity Center and allows Westbrook to continue operating its detoxification and substance abuse treatment services out of Amity Center.
The new agreement no longer requires the agency to offer the public intoxication shelter as a term of the contract.
During an earlier meeting, JoAnn Powell, Westbrook executive director, told commissioners the health services agency will not reapply for grant funding for the public intoxication shelter.
The grant ends at the end of December. Powell said the agency is no longer eligible under new grant requirements and due to safety, security and other concerns the agency no longer wishes to operate the shelter.
The commissioners then asked Prosecutor Jason Wharton to come up with a new agreement. On Monday, Wharton presented a proposed new lease.
"The current lease you have is for 99 years. The new lease is for two years. Under the current agreement, you could vote to cancel the current agreement because Westbrook will be in violation of the terms because they would no longer be providing the public intoxication center," Wharton said.
Under the new agreement, Westbrook, as was previously discussed at the meeting with Powell, would provide a minimum 34 charity care beds for in-patient treatment to Wood County residents on an annual basis.
Priority would be given to inmates on Wood County charges. Westbrook would provide, on a quarterly basis, a breakdown of the county residents treated on an in-patient basis.
The lease could be terminated by the county if those beds are not provided.
"So they are no longer going to provide the public intoxication shelter, putting us in a bind, and we don't know what we're going to do about the public intoxication," Commissioner Steve Gainer said.
Wharton said a decision needs to made because the funding expires later this month.
"Our options are to hold their feet to the fire or sign a new lease," Commissioner Blair Couch said.
Wharton said Wood is one of the few counties in the state that has a public intoxication shelter.
"You can look at other possibilities for the public intoxication services, but Westbrook has made it clear they are not going to continue providing that service," Wharton said.
Wharton said other counties of similar size are being contacted to see how they handle the situation, and other options, like working with another agency to provide the shelter services, are being explored.
"I'd like to have more time but we have known about this issue since summer; we knew it was coming. We need some kind of emergency plan until we can get something more permanent," said commission President Wayne Dunn.
"I'm not afraid to tell Westbrook to leave the building," Gainer said.
"I'm comfortable with the new lease, if it's for one year," Dunn said.
Commissioners Dunn and Couch voted to agree to the new lease with a one-year term instead of two years. Gainer voted no.
"I have a problem. I don't know what we're going to do. You just kicked the can further down the road," Gainer told the fellow commissioners.
Wharton said the shelter provided a place for individuals charged with public intoxication to sober up. He said he was told most of those in the shelter chose not to then enter the detox program that was offered.
Westbrook receives more than $100,000 for the public intoxication shelter. Last year, 358 residents went through the shelter.
Amity Center's medical detoxification and residential treatment program for adults is a 28-day program. Patients are referred for longer-term treatment.