Veterans Recovery Resources (VRR), which has a widely-praised and nearly funded plan to open a residential detox and recovery center for veterans and first responders at the blighted Raphael Semmes School building on Springhill Avenue, is being challenged by a competing health care provider upstate.

VRR Executive Director John Kilpatrick said the nonprofit organization is prepared to finalize financing and begin construction on the center as soon as the project is approved by the Statewide Health Coordinating Council. But a 30-day public comment period opened on the project last month, and on the 30th day, Bradford Health Services filed a notice of opposition. The proposal will be the subject of a hearing in Montgomery on Dec. 14.

Bradford, which operates a for-profit residential inpatient detox facility in Jefferson County, argues VRR used an erroneous formula to indicate a need for additional Level III clinically monitored detoxification and residential treatment beds elsewhere in the state. Bradford further claims veterans are not an underserved population for the services VRR proposes, waitlists are not an indicator of need, Bradford has available bed capacity, and limited population growth in Mobile County will hinder the need for additional services.

“There are other providers in Alabama such as Bradford whose services would be impacted through the development of unneeded beds,” Bradford wrote, noting the providers would also compete for staff. They recommend the application’s denial.

“I have stacks and stacks and stacks of letters of support of this project,” Kilpatrick said. “Actually, when we were first contemplating this, we did a needs assessment and hired a private consulting firm and Bradford, AltaPointe, Veterans Affairs and every provider in town said there’s a need, and we would refer veterans to their program.”

In fact, VRR’s application includes an undated letter of support for the VRR project from Bradford Community Representative Ann Marie Powell.

A year ago, VRR ceremonially broke ground on a renovation project to create an inpatient residential and detox facility next to its existing outpatient facility on Springhill Avenue. The 18,000-square-foot facility will have eight beds for clinically monitored detoxification, 16 beds for residential treatment and up to 10 beds for short-term care for veterans who are transitioning from homelessness.

The organization has raised more than $5 million in donations toward the estimated $6.5 million cost of construction, and earlier this year, VRR was awarded a $4 million federal grant to hire additional staff and implement model care.

The application notes VRR’s current operations “are fully funded through 2023” and “the inpatient facility would be self-sustaining in four years.” VRR plans to offer its services to eligible patients and clients at no cost.

“VRR has helped place coastal and Southwest Alabama veterans in facilities as far away as Kentucky to help them get the care they need, at a detox facility that didn’t consider ability to pay,” the organization claims. “That shouldn’t happen. They deserve access to care near their homes.”

Bradford sees it differently.

“There are sound clinical reasons why substance abuse treatment does not have to take place in the local community,” it wrote in its notice of opposition. “Removing patients from the environment that has led to their addiction can facilitate successful outcomes in achieving or maintaining sobriety. Travel to facilities outside Mobile County, particularly veterans, is not a barrier to care.”

Kilpatrick argued, “It’s outrageous really.”

VRR is providing supporters limited transportation to the hearing in Montgomery on Dec. 10. For more information visit info@vetsrecover.org.

Article Link: https://lagniappemobile.com/private-health-care-provider-looks-to-derail-springhill-avenue-veterans-clinic/