Drug court drops treatment provider

FRONT ROYAL — The Northwestern Regional Adult Drug Treatment Court has dropped one of its treatment providers, leaving the Northwestern Community Services Board as the drug court’s sole treatment provider for the past three weeks.

The board’s CEO, Mike Elwell, said in a board meeting Wednesday that he was uncertain why the drug court declined to renew its contract with Winchester Addiction Services PLC.

“I don’t know the ins and outs, but the existing provider was not meeting the expectations of the committee for the drug treatment program,” Elwell said.

Lauren Cummings, executive director for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, confirmed that the drug court decided not to renew its contract with Winchester Addiction Services and chose to rely on the Community Services Board for all of its treatment. Cummings said that this decision came about because Winchester Addiction Services does not provide as many services as the Community Services Board does.

“[The Northwestern Community Services Board has] all of these services,” Cummings said. “Unfortunately, [Winchester Addiction Services] is a sole provider.”

John Lindsey, director and manager of Winchester Addiction Services, has not responded to a request for comment.

Cummings said that Winchester Addiction Services only provides outpatient treatment. By contrast, the Northwestern Community Services Board has case management services and peer services.

Community services boards in Virginia also have the ability to refer patients to government facilities because they are affiliated with the Virginia Department of Health.

In the board meeting, Elwell said the move was “predicted.” He said that the Community Services Board added a substance abuse clinic, the Amherst Clinic in Winchester, partly so it could deal with drug court cases.

“[The drug court] was one of the reasons for the expansion, because that was brought upon us in a very short period of time,” Elwell said.

Cummings also said the change came about after the Community Services Board expanded to the Amherst Clinic in November. In a later statement, she added that community services boards are typically the main providers for drug treatment courts.

“Nationally,  community services boards are the providers of Drug Treatment Courts and when we started the Drug Treatment Court last August, our CSB did not have services in place to support the program,” Cummings stated.

The decision to drop a provider from the drug treatment court comes as the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition aims to double the number of people who are treated through the court, from the current number of 10. Cummings said that the decision will not make it more difficult for the drug court to expand.

“In fact, this change allows us to expand,” Cummings said.

“It allows us to be able to provide all of the services that are necessary to provide for our drug treatment clients,” she added.

But the change could increase the workload of the Community Services Board, which has struggled to meet a high demand for mental health and substance abuse services.

Throughout the board meeting, Elwell and others discussed the financial strain that the board is under. The organization recently switched to a larger pharmacy in a cost-saving effort and is looking to create a nonprofit wing in order to be able to raise funds.

At one point, a member of the board asked Elwell what the  board would do if they couldn’t take more patients.

“I don’t know,” Elwell said.

Elwell added that the  board has grown in terms of the number of services it covers and people it treats. But it still struggles to meet the demand.

“I don’t know where the end result is,” Elwell said. “I think we’ll have a lot of examples with other parts of the state, with other [community service boards] and what happens nationally, but I think there needs to be a lot more money that comes into this business.”