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Trillium, county modify lease for future treatment site

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Eighteen months after a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, work on an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility is suspended because Trillium Health Resources was forced to use its fund balance to cover operational expenses.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Friday, November 24, 2017

The current year was suppose to end with a ribbon cutting ceremony and the first group of men beginning in-patient treatment for substance abuse problems.

Instead, Trillium Health Resources’ plan to build a 200-bed substance abuse recovery center is on indefinite hold and the agency’s lease agreement with Pitt County for land in the County Office Park was modified in an effort to reduce the initial yearly payments.

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners approved the change without discussion at Monday’s meeting. The agreement was among several routine business items included in the board’s consent agenda

The county and Trillium, a local government agency that manages services for mental health, substance abuse and intellectual/development disabilities in Pitt and 23 other eastern North Carolina counties, signed an agreement on Oct. 1, 2015, that allowed Trillium to lease six acres of land in the Old Creek Road complex to build the in-patient drug treatment center.

The 50-year agreement required Trillium to pay the county $590,000 annually over six years for a total amount of $3.54 million. After that, Trillium’s annual lease would be $10.

In return Trillium would fund all the construction costs, at the time estimated to be $12 million, plus the first two years of operational costs. Trillium planned to contract with Healing Transitions, a substance abuse treatment provider, to operate the facility.

Under the original agreement, Trillium would make its final payment before Oct. 1, 2020. The new final payment dates is Oct. 2, 2022.

The payment amount for the next four years, beginning in 2018 is $463,315. The final payment will be $43,325.

"It was a slight modification to the lease agreement. We are still getting the same amount of money, we're just extending it out," said Pitt County Manager Scott Elliott. Trillium asked for the modification.

“They wanted to make sure that from a cash flow basis, on an annual basis, that we are not receiving more than we are pay in to Trillium,” he said. Pitt and Trillium’s other member counties make an annual operational payment to the organization because it manages the delivery of services. Pitt County pays Trillium approximately $460,000 annually.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the facility in early May 2016. Construction was scheduled to begin in August and the facility was suppose to open in late 2017, said Chris Budnick, executive director of Healing Transition of Wake County.

The project is on hold because state funding cuts forced Trillium to use it savings to fund day-to-day operations, CEO Leza Wainwright reported in August.

The cuts were only supposed to occur during the biennial period of 2015-17, Wainwright said. However, an additional $17.1 million was added through 2019 during the General Assembly’s last budget session.

Modifying the lease ensures that the land remains available as Trillium explores ways to fund construction and operations, said Jennifer Mackethan, Trillium’s Communications and Marketing director.

Elliott said the current lease is for 50 years. He believes the facility will be built and the county supports the agency’s efforts to secure new funding. There has been no discussion about Pitt County or other counties covering the construction costs.

"There is definitely a need but if anyone should consider funding it it should be through an appropriation funded by the North Carolina General Assembly," Elliott said.

"There is a desperate need to provide these services to provide this treatment option for individuals facing substance abuse," he said.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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