Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Five counties have agreements to send clients to The Healing Place

The Healing Place’s newly-constructed facility on Medical Center Drive. (Port City Daily/Brenna Flanagan)

WILMINGTON — Last week, The Healing Place released its first month’s numbers, revealing it served 72% of patients from New Hanover County, with the rest coming from more than a dozen additional counties.

New Hanover, which spent $25 million building the facility, has an agreement with The Healing Place similar to those in Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus and Onslow counties. NHC is reserving 50 beds — split evenly between male and female — in the 200-bed non-medical facility.

READ MORE: The Healing Place set to open Feb. 1

The county was aware it would serve patients coming from beyond New Hanover’s borders.

“It was always known that other counties may contract with The Healing Place for bed space, as that was included as part of their outlined funding model from the beginning,” the county wrote in a statement to PCD.

New Hanover is paying $45 per day per client, while Brunswick is shelling out $66 per day per client, a dollar short of the $67 it costs The Healing Place. None of the cost is passed to clients, which receive all the services the facility offers, including housing and food, at no charge.

Counties have contracted for 97 beds — or nearly half — but the complexity of how these agreements work and The Healing Place’s plans mean it does not intend to run out of beds any time soon, nor is it continuously charging local governments for beds they are not using.

The agreements use the term “reserved,” but The Healing Place Development Director Megan Youssefi said the purpose of the contracts is to establish formal billing agreements. The contracts also outline that The Healing Place will pick up clients and bring them directly to the facility when they are referred.

Counties are charged per client, per day directly referred to the facility, but there is a cutoff. Brunswick’s maximum is $198,000 for the 20 beds it signed off on; Columbus and Bladen have a package deal for 17 beds and Onslow contracted for 10.

The counties dub the mutual understandings “per diem agreements.” The recovery center does not hold a certain number of beds open for a county depending on how many they have contracted for in the agreement, nor does it charge counties for empty beds. 

The nonprofit will accept up to the number of clients in the agreement. It has an commitment to make beds available for the counties, all of whom understood this when the agreements were created.

“The Healing Place must ensure a bed is made available for any accepted resident up to 20 within their facility,” Brunswick County spokesperson Meagan Kacscak said of the

This is not a brand-new contract. Brunswick County first drafted an agreement with The Healing Place in 2021, shortly after the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners signed off on funding the facility in December 2020.

Youssefi said The Healing Place can accommodate the agreements because the facility is multifaceted.  It has an emergency shelter, detox facility and long-term residency beds with different lengths of stays — and clients come and go daily.

“We foresee always having beds available to those who need recovery, detox, and/or shelter services,” Youssefi wrote in an email to PCD.

The center is still first-come, first-serve. If there is no referral, the nonprofit will seek approval to bill the respective county of the client’s residence for the duration of stay, but it will still take someone suffering from substance abuse even if there is no funding attached.

The reality is many beds will go unfunded or underfunded by per diem agreements alone. 

The facility opened in February, and served 131 people in its first month. Its emergency shelters saw the most demand, with the men’s remaining at at-least 88% capacity and the women’s coming in around 42% capacity.

Within the first 30 days, clients came from 15 counties, more than the five with standing contracts to pay The Healing Place. For beds with no funding mechanism attached, the center eats the full cost. Youssefi said the facility plans to always leave a few recovery beds with no contract attached so the facility can remain flexible. Those beds will never receive per diem money.

The difference has to be collected via fundraising and state detox reimbursements. The new facility is awaiting licensure on its detox facility, which is expected to open in April.

Youssefi said the facility does not have a current fundraising goal and is “building relationships in the community.”

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