Borough approved transitional housing

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the borough assembly’s vote to show that seven members voted for the transitional housing ordinance, with two voting against.

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation patients coming out of Central Peninsula Hospital’s Serenity House will have another housing option in Soldotna.

The borough assembly approved the hospital’s request to purchase and refurbish a building in Soldotna for transitional housing, an intermediary between Serenity House’s 30-day rehabilitation housing and getting back out on their own. The borough assembly approved $395,000 out of the hospital’s Plant Replacement and Expansion Fund for the purchase, with seven yes votes and assembly members Stan Welles and Wayne Ogle voting against it.

The hospital also received several grants for the project to offset the cost of building it, totaling more than $1 million. Assembly member Kelly Cooper, who chairs the Finance Committee, said she was proud of the hospital for receiving the grant and pleased about the project.

“This is really a good thing for the community,” Cooper said. “It’s nice to see those grant funds of over $1 million.”

Shari Conner, the intake coordinator for the hospital’s behavioral health department, said the department has needed this for some time.

“We’re thrilled,” Conner said.

Conner said patients could face steep hurdles coming out of Serenity House and heading back out into the world. The median monthly rent in Soldotna was $988 in 2014. For someone coming out of rehabilitation that may not have been employed for some time, that is a steep cost, she said.

Sometimes former patients will go in on an apartment together and share the space, but with multiple people who have had addiction problems in the same space, they can relapse, she said.

Kristie Sellers, the director of behavioral health at the hospital, said nearly 60 percent of the patients who come into Serenity House have substandard housing. Sending patients back out to that after they finish at Serenity House could reduce their ability to stay clean, she said.

The transitional housing will give them a place to go and learn life skills again, like cooking or basic money management, Sellers said.

The facility could bring in revenue for the hospital as well — about $65,000 in the first year and approximately $107,000 in the years beyond, according to a Sustainability Plan submitted to the borough.

It could also help reduce “overstay,” the situation where a patient has to stay longer than the set time — a problem the current facility runs into because of the lack of safe housing, according to the sustainability plan.

The hospital may not even spend the money the borough is allowing it to withdraw — it is a safety measure in case additional grants they have applied for do not come through, according to the memo to the borough assembly.

Central Peninsula Hospital Government and External Affairs Manager Bruce Richards said in a previous interview that the hospital hopes to send out a request for final designs and get the work started by early or mid-summer.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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