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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County loses protest over review of mental health care

State officials announced Thursday that they denied a Spokane County protest of a Department of Social and Health Services review that puts its oversight of mental health in jeopardy.

County officials say they will fight to continue to manage the mental health system and will compete in a bidding process that starts next month in which companies and nonprofits could contend with county government for the state contract.

Commissioner Mark Richard said the county will submit a bid.

“I feel like we were on the right track with new management (and) new funding,” Richard said.

If the county is not chosen, it will relinquish oversight in September. However, county leaders remain hopeful the state Legislature will intervene to delay implementation of the process.

Spokane County, which administers care to about 5,000 people a month, has a DSHS contract, making it one of 14 regional support networks. The networks manage the mental health system but contract with other groups that provide care.

Mental health leaders have stressed that people receiving services will not lose care despite potential management changes.

Six other networks also failed the review. Five including Spokane appealed, and all but one was denied.

Five concerns were raised in the county’s appeal, including that the state violated open records law.

Andy Toulon, DSHS mental health procurement manager, said the county is benefited in the bidding by the competition’s similarity to the recent review process. “It should be something that helps them in crafting their next response,” Toulon said.