Valley Cities Drug Rehab facility put on hold until end of the year

by Jack Mayne

The City of Des Moines will do nothing more on the proposed Woodmont area drug and substance rehabilitation facility until at least 2016, giving Valley Cities time to find another location for some or all of its operations.

Des Moines Public Works Director Dan Brewer wrote a letter on Friday (Oct. 15; letters enclosed below) saying the city has approved Valley Cities CEO Kenneth Taylor’s request to place “all procedural and substantive review of your permits” on hold until the end of the year, “particularly the final design review decision and the building permit application…”

Taylor requested the hold in a letter to Brewer yesterday.

Mayor Dave Kaplan said Friday that “obviously we are pleased that Valley Cities is willing to re-explore options, alternative locations.”

Kaplan said it was his understanding that Valley Cities was “trying to identify potential locations” to move some or all of their services … (at least) “moving some of the more problematic services elsewhere.”

Huge facility
Valley Cities earlier this year proposed a plan to build a drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center in their neighborhood along Pacific Coast Highway in south Des Moines (read our extensive previous coverage here).

Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation of Kent has purchased property in the Woodmont neighborhood at 26915 Pacific Highway South. It said then it planned to build a 19,665 square foot mental health evaluation and treatment facility with 24 beds, a 25,340 square foot detoxification facility with 40 beds, along with an office building, a dispensary clinic, and meeting facility.

This led to a loud and sustained outcry from residents of the south Des Moines site, close by an elementary school and a public library.

Two long, loud and angry hearings were held in the Woodmont neighborhood, and more sustained objections were heard at Des Moines City Council meetings.

Neighbors said the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) was not properly followed and accused city officials and the mayor of not letting the residents of the area know of the plans until after the initial hearings had been held and also had notified only a few residents close by the proposed facility.

Move it!
After the public outcry, State Reps. Tina Orwall and Carol Gregory said the facilities were needed but agreed the Woodmont neighborhood was not a good location because of the school and library. Also King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said he would work to block any King County funds from the project.

This hold will give all parties time to explore other locations or to craft a so-called “Good Neighbor Agreement” that would require specific safeguards, fees and other payments from Valley Cities to cover extra policing and city services.

The Council two weeks ago unanimously approved the hiring of the expert land use lawyer even after hearing that one hired earlier by the city’s insurance carrier said there were ways the city could better control the facility’s construction and lawsuits to stop it were possible.

At the Council meeting on Oct. 1, City Manager Tony Piasecki said efforts to find a new location for the Woodmont Recovery facility “are continuing” and that “Tina Orwall and your representatives are working feverishly to see if they can find some other place and some other way to make the campus moved to some other location.”



24 Responses to “Valley Cities Drug Rehab facility put on hold until end of the year”
  1. RedondoRick says:

    I would like to thank Tina Orwall, Carol Gregory, and Dave Upthegrove for their work in getting Valley Cities to slow down are their plans to build the Recovery Campus in Woodmont.

    • AB in DM says:

      On the one hand Rick, yeah I agree with you. Thanks (D) politicians for sticking up for DM. You listened to a vocal constituency and acted (properly).

      Yet on the other hand, this is the same general group of folks who got us into this mess to begin with; supporting policies which created the root causes of the growing addiction problem.

      This is all just more of moving deck chairs around on the Titanic IMO. Vote for politicians of INTEGRITY who will lead us OUT of this mess altogether. Not just shift the problem to a different area of town.

      BTW> Does anyone find it interesting that both (D) Tina Orwall and (S) Alex Szabo have backgrounds in mental health, one even running a similar facility, yet neither of them want the thing in their area? Speaks volumes to me…

  2. DM Resident says:

    Hey Redondo Rick,
    I know you hate the DM city council but maybe you should thank them and Mr. Piasecki. This didn’t happen without their hard work.


    • SaveDesMoines says:

      Ummmm, DM Resident you obviously have no clue about what you are talking about….

    • RedondoRick says:

      DM, Well if you want to thank the city council and city manager for all their hard work. Don’t forget to thank them for putting us in the state this city’s in. $1.7 million in the RED. Helping all the could to have a rehab facility like no other, put right in the middle of a neighborhood, with a school and Library! And don’t forget the pay raises for these hard workers. Which means your taxes will increase $310 a year. While looking for a short term loan to pay their employee’s monthly wages. You should really attend council meetings, and see for yourself the deficiencies, of this council…Rr

  3. Dr. Alexander Szabo says:

    It took a village !

  4. Dr. Alexander Szabo says:

    Hoo-Rah to the city officials who got this done !

    To Valley Cities…move ALL of your operations !

    Valley Cities says that their Woodmont Recovery Center campus will have:

    a mental health evaluation center
    an outpatient clinic
    16 beds w/ involuntary commitment
    8 voluntary beds
    (both w/ max 30 day stay)
    a medical dispensary

    Community Mental Health and Drug Abuse Treatment Programs Evidence-Based Practices and Outcomes Measurement include:

    professional case managers to coordinate and broker all services
    team-based care
    assertive outpatient clinics and community treatment, intensive strengths case management and clinical case management
    system level integration and provision of wrap-around services
    supported employment
    systematic medication management
    illness management and recovery
    integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders (serious and persistent mental illness together with substance abuse)
    affordable, decent supportive or supported housing
    integration of treatment, including inpatient detoxification, rehabilitation (preferably life-span development theory rather than stage development theory) and support services
    peer support programs (esp. AA) and supported education
    vocational, family and social services


  5. Perpetua Murray says:

    I AM EMBARRASSED TO BE A PART OF THE DES MOINES COMMUNITY. To live in a community where the residents are uneducated and paranoid regarding recovery facilities. I would bet some of the people that are yelling the loudest have family members that desperately need these services. It appears the spineless politicians have caved to the vocal minority because they are worried about their next election…shame on you. I have lived in communities where recovery centers have been good neighbors and I am reconsidering my decision to put down roots in Des Moines. The signs on the road disgust me “KIDS BEFORE ADDICTS” when the disease of addiction begins in adolescence. It sounds like the citizens of Des Moines and the politicians are willing to abandon our “KIDS” when they need us the most.


    • BirchCreek says:

      Perpetua, You’ve missed the point of the objection to the treatment facility.
      Not next to a school!
      As a medical professional in a local emergency department, I believe that such facilities ARE badly needed. BUT NOT NEXT TO A SCHOOL!
      * I personally see patients on methadone, it helps many, BUT many also back slide and it is VERY MESSY! Why is that OK next to a school?
      * To have involuntary mental health commitment, you have to have a lock-down unit. In the ER, even when under 1:1 supervision and security guards on site and close police back-up – a high level of supervision, Patients still try to escape. And occasionally make it to the door. I can’t believe the Valley Cities will have the level of supervision.
      Why is it OK to have this next to a school???!
      I am neither ignorant, un-educated or paranoid, just have greater personal knowledge of this situations.
      I would suggest putting the facility in the new light industrial area underdevelopment south of the airport.

      • Perpetua Murray says:

        Thanks for your professional opinion. I appreciate you. I am also a medical professional.

        Our neighbors in Burien…there is a drug and alcohol facility-Lakeside Milam Recovery Center across the street from St. Bernadette School. Same age children as Woodmont Elementary. I don’t know what the politics were when this recovery center was put in but I do know that St. Bernadette has allowed Lakeside Milam to use their recess area for several years. Not only do they deal with the treatment facility they welcome it. That IS community. This is an opportunity to educate our children about drugs, alcohol and RECOVERY.

        • WM Resident says:

          Perpetua Murray- You are comparing apples to oranges with the Lakeside Milam Vs. Valley Cities. Lakeside is a private rehab center where people have to pay to receive recovery treatment. They are there by choice and at their own cost. Valley Cities is paid for by your tax dollars for people who may or may not want treatment who will be voluntary or involuntarily treated. It’s the frame of mind that will make the difference. If someone wants help, it is safe to say that they would be less likely to be a threat. Why would they jeopardize their own personal goal? If someone is being forced to get help and they don’t want it, the motivation to leave, escape or become violent is higher. It is not fair to compare the two facilities. They are completely different business models, however they both do share the same goal of capitalizing on the treatment of addiction. It’s a big money business whether it’s a non-profit or not. That fact is a very fair comparison, except the one in Woodmont will be costing tax payers money along with exposing children to harm and creating a dangerous neighborhood for the citizens who live here.

          • Perpetua Murray says:

            Lakeside is private but they do take patients that are low income with no insurance.

            Valley Cities is not 100% involuntary and what’s wrong with involuntary those people can recover too.

            The community that you want is not what I want. Community to me is all inclusive.

            People that are discussing pedophiles…they are everywhere!

        • BirchCreek says:

          Perpetua, Like-side and Valley cities treatment facilities are not the same!
          It is not an equivalent comparison. Like-Side is VOLUNTARY!. The Valley Cites model will be INVOLUNTARY! Would you want the facility next to your home? Why an objection to a area distant from neighborhoods, schools, libraries?
          “FACT” Parts of Burien have become a drug cesspool from an ER perspective, again not an equivalent comparison. I feel sorry for the city leaderfship there as they try to grapple with this skyrocketing problem!

  6. Erin E. says:

    To be clear the City of Des Moines did nothing to help the Community Group of Woodmont, they have been the driving force of getting this project delayed. The City has done nothing to support the group members, they have done nothing but give lip service with no follow through. The City Manager is over paid for a insolvent city, people wake up, take a hard look at what is going on in this town. If the Community Group of No Woodmont Rehab had not written to every state legislature representative and done the job that the city failed to, like pointing out how close it is to a grade school and the oversights every step of the way, Valley Cities would be moving dirt and there would be no “pause”. The City of Des Moines but a price tag on each child that attends Woodmont Elementary, the cost of a child’s safety is not as important as the greed of those who run this town.

  7. EH says:

    It’s so sad to think that MUCH needed services may be forced out by NIMBYS yet again. You people are awful. I really Valley Cities doesn’t back down.

    • Erin E. says:

      Valley Cities is the awful one in this case. WHO in their right mind would build this so close to a GRADE SCHOOL!! The fact that the children are put at risk, is what is sad!

    • BirchCreek says:

      EH, are you not reading the responses??? ITS ABOUT LOCATION – LOCATION- LOCATION!!! Not whether of not such a facility should exist. Get off your high ‘I’m offended” horse long enough to look at this logically. The good of the many children out-weigh the good of a few. Take a cue from Seattle, and have it put in a light industrial area like the one on Airport Way!

    • Perpetua Murray says:

      Thank you EH! Glad someone else here has a heart.

  8. WoodmontResident says:

    The neighborhood residents are not being NIMBYs. We are not cold hearted, we are not ignorant. We have pored over the documents and plans and found many gaps and inconsistencies that have to be addressed. That’s not chaos. That’s responsible citizenship.

    Valley Cities bid on a proposal to build a 16 bed psychiatric facility. They have ballooned that in to a massive complex, adding administrative offices, medical/dental clinics, a restaurant, a detox center and a methadone clinic- which they did not disclose to the city. A second company- Telecare- won the same contract as Valley Cities. They have experience in managing psych facilities. They are only building what was requested- a 16 bed psych hospital.

    Valley Cities, who have never run an inpatient psych facility, states they don’t even need to study the effect of increased traffic, demands on police and EMS services, or the environmental impact of paving over 7 acres of land and adding medical water/sewage needs because similar facilities around the country have not had problems. But at the same time both Valley Cities and their architect say this complex is exciting and challenging because it’s never been done before. They cite a precedent they themselves say doesn’t exist in order to avoid requirements for them to know what their complex would do to the area.

    There are no other psych hospitals or methadone clinics in western WA that are this close to homes, schools, or libraries. The Des Moines Police submitted written concerns about facility safety and security. To all of these responsible and appropriate questions, Valley Cities says “trust us.”

    We can’t do that, and we shouldn’t be dismissed or insulted for asking questions of a company that has never provided this type of service, is cutting corners, and being deceptive. Valley Cities has earned our distrust. If these much needed services are delayed, it’s because of how Valley Cities’ leadership has decided to manage the process, not because the community caught on to them. They have shown they have no intention of respecting the neighborhood, which is required by law.

    Valley Cities has a goal, and they seem to plan on achieving it no matter what the impact on the community. That goal may be noble, but HOW they accomplish it affects others. They can’t just “throw something out there and hope it works.” They have to do it RIGHT. Doing it right is MUCH harder in a residential neighborhood, but this location was their choice. Their choices now are find a place that is less regulated or deal with following the rules here. All of them, not just the cheap and convenient ones.

    The mental health and detox services are much needed. The community has needs, too- needs Valley Cities is stomping on. So if you’re going to be angry at anybody for the drama, look at Valley Cities’ leadership team, with the big budget and team of lawyers. The community is the little guy being wronged.

    • BirchCreek says:

      Thank you Woodmont Resident for your thoughtful post.
      I totally agree.
      Unfortunately people like EH and Perpetua do not want to put much thought into their opinion, just a knee jerk NIMBY response.
      It is also unfortunate the Valley Cities does not have the best reputation amoung the mental health community for the services they provide. We can’t afford the luxury of them guessing thier way through the development of this project.

  9. Des Moines Homeowner says:

    This drug addict/mental health facility DOES NOT belong in a residential area. I have a very good friend who works with addicts and the mentally ill in the Tacoma area. At first when I told her about Valley Cities plan, she couldn’t believe the location. She looked at me dead in the eyes and said to fight this tooth and nail and to not let it be built in our neighborhood.

    She told me these addicts and the people with mental issues will end up hanging around the facility 24/7. Most of them are homeless and live on the streets and will camp out wherever they can. This area has enough crime and we sure don’t need more. This will be a negative impact to your property values as well. To quote my friend, she said: NOTHING good will come from this facility and we need to continue the fight until the very end.

    So these are words of advice and they are from a professional. Just because things are put on hold until December 31st, our community cannot let its guard down. We still need to be prepared for another battle.

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