Benton County will buy the former Kennewick General Hospital for $1.6 million to house a future mental health or drug use treatment program.
And it won’t be the last building aimed at helping people in need of those services, the commissioners promised.
While the county had hoped to use the KGH building to house a broader program, they view the purchase as a stepping stone rather than a setback.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the 193,000-square-foot building at a special meeting on Friday.
The county has yet to finalize the plan for what exactly would be in the building, but it would offer something related to substance use disorders or mental health treatment, officials said.
They have previously suggested that the former hospital could be used for long-term drug use treatment or as a psychiatric center for adolescents.
“Currently, we are discussing what services can be located on the KGH campus and what services need to be located elsewhere,” the county said in a statement sent Friday.
It will likely be months before the county can begin using the building, county officials said.
Commissioner Will McKay was excited about the possibilities offered by the building. He pointed out that the county got it at a good price — less than $100 per square foot.
“You can’t build a building like that for less than $500. I’m looking forward to seeing the remodeling,” he said during Friday’s meeting. “I’m ready to get that rock ‘n’ roll.”
That assessment was shared by Commissioner Shon Small, who said if the county tried to construct the building, it would never reach this scale.
Behavioral Health Recreation Center
While mental health or substance abuse treatment of some form will come to the KGH building, it will not be the one-stop shop the property was once intended to be.
County officials and police have been talking about a behavioral health restoration center that would offer both types of treatment to anyone who needs it.
While commissioners in Benton and Franklin counties had investigated the former hospital as part of this plan, the former hospital’s owners, LifePoint Health, will not allow the property to be used for adult mental health treatment for more than three days.
LifePoint owns Richland’s Lourdes Counseling Center, which is licensed for up to 36 beds — a 20-bed psychiatric hospital and a 16-bed short-term mental health care facility.
The restriction makes it impossible to accommodate such a service in the former KGH building.
Commissioner Jerome Delvin said Benton County is keen to find a home for a facility they describe as “not a false door.”
“It remains our goal to have a no false door facility for individuals experiencing mental health or drug crises, and we want to reassure everyone that momentum has not been lost in establishing a recovery center for our community and region is. ‘ the district said in a statement.
The county has $9 million in state and federal funding to support and make the project a reality. In addition, the district has committed up to $5 million of money it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to the project.