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Lewis officials plan privatization of treatment center

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County officials are moving forward with plans to privatize the county’s alcohol and substance abuse treatment center, primarily due to staffing difficulties.

The Lewis County Community Services Board on Tuesday approved the transfer of the county-run Community Recovery Center on Number Three Road to Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions Inc., Watertown.

“I think this will be good for the Community Recovery Center and good for Credo,” said James P. Scordo, the nonprofit agency’s executive director.

The move will allow Credo, which previously operated a clinic in Carthage, to expand its presence into Lewis County and enhance services to county residents, Mr. Scordo said.

The Community Recovery Center had employed three counselors through much of last year, but two of them resigned within a couple of months, leaving only one to see clients.

“We have a staffing problem, and we are not having any luck recruiting,” said Sarah J. Bullock, the county’s acting director of community services. “The services were suffering because of it.”

The Community Services Board in November sought proposals from firms interested in taking over chemical-dependency outpatient services, and Credo was the only agency to respond.

“We’re really happy about Credo, because they certainly have a good reputation,” said Catherine L. Liendecker, the board’s chairwoman.

Directors of Lewis County’s probation and social services departments and Jefferson County Community Services all submitted letters of support on Credo’s behalf.

The proposal was reviewed by county officials, and a Community Services Board sub-committee interviewed Credo officials earlier this month, Mrs. Bullock said.

The legislative Mental Hygiene Committee was also briefed on the proposal, and legislators will likely be asked to sign off on it next week, she said.

Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, who attended the interview, said he was “very impressed” with the proposal and felt Credo would be able to run the center more cost-effectively than the county.

Credo’s proposal includes an estimated annual budget for the center of $325,000, with about $173,000 needed from the state and county to avoid an operating deficit.

However, only about $20,000 is expected to come from the county, while this year’s budget anticipates a $60,000 county share to run the center, Mrs. Bullock said.

While the request for proposals stipulates that the transfer take place by Oct. 1, it could happen more quickly if needed state approvals come through in a timely manner, she said.

Mr. Scordo said he is hoping for an August or September start.

Credo is proposing to employ two full-time counselors and one half-time counselor, along with a couple of support staff members.

“If selected, Credo Community Center would plan on having an open process for selecting employees,” the proposal states. “It would be ideal to have Lewis County residents and some current employees of the Lewis County Recovery Center work at this site.”

County legislators in 2009 attempted to privatize the Community Recovery Center, primarily as a cost-cutting move. However, Credo, which initially agreed to take over the center, later determined that expanding its services into Lewis County would not be feasible at that time.

Mrs. Bullock said she is not concerned about a similar situation occurring again, given the groundwork done by the Community Services Board and Credo officials.

“It was a good process,” she said.

Lewis County has already privatized most of its mental health services. County officials last summer transferred programs, including the outpatient clinic, to Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, while Northern Regional Center for Independent Living took on a few of them, including advocacy and family support services.

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