Spokane Community Mental Health Center will remain the county’s top mental health agency for at least a year.
Commissioners who favor opening the mental health contract to competitive bidding decided Thursday to delay their plans.
“This is a huge contract and anyone who wants to respond to it needs some lead time,” said Spokane County Commissioner Steve Hasson.
About $12 million of the private mental health agency’s $17 million annual budget passes through the county.
Community Mental Health officials were elated by the delay. They feared the deal they’ve had with the county for nearly 30 years was slipping through their fingers.
The agency provides everything from psychiatric residency programs and a crisis hotline to child abuse prevention classes, sometimes subcontracting with other organizations.
“I think it was a good decision,” said David Panken, chief executive officer at the mental health agency.
In January 1996, commissioners will seek bids for a single contract including all mental health services the county currently offers.
Any change in providers wouldn’t take place until July 1996.
“If they’d decided to bid things out on a piecemeal basis it would have damaged the integrated system,” said Panken.
If no agency other than Community Mental Health offers a bid, Hasson said, commissioners may break the contract into smaller packages.
“They assured me there’d be a lot of bidders out there who’d want to bid,” Hasson said.
Commissioner George Marlton said he’ll draw the line at more than one contract, which he said saves money by eliminating duplication.
“It provides more efficient services for the dollar,” Marlton said.
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