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Rimrock Trails temporarily closes adolescent drug-abuse treatment program amid staffing shortage

(Update: Adding video, comments from executive director)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Rimrock Trails Treatment Services, which provides mental health counseling and substance use treatment in Bend, Redmond and Prineville, said Monday it has temporarily closed its adolescent residential substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program, until further notice.

"The statewide youth SUD system has been laboring under many burdens and constraints for years," the announcement stated. "With the additional pressures of COVID and the ensuing workforce catastrophe, youth SUD programs around the state have reached a critical point.

Rimrock Executive Director Erica Fuller-Hewitt said Monday evening the challenge is unprecedented in her career.

"I have been in this industry for over 20 years, and I have never experienced anything like this before, in terms of the shortage of applicants, the ability to recruit and retain qualified individuals." 

Fuller-Hewitt says the treatment center has a capacity of 24 beds, but that number was cut in half.

At the time of this temporary closure, she says there were only a few adolescents still in the program.

So what happens to them now?

Fuller-Hewitt says they've worked hard to transfer those in need, but it's still an uphill battle.

"So in a situation like this, what we do is we actually assist in transferring care for the individuals that were in our program to a different treatment facility," Fuller-Hewitt said. "The struggle with that right now is youth programs across the state are closing, and so their options for transferring care are very limited. There's very few adolescent treatment beds left in the state." 

Fuller-Hewitt says they are looking to rebuild their treatment team and need individuals who are willing to take on the challenge and have a 'why' when it comes to the work.

If Rimrock is able to build up their current treatment team, they hope to reopen in the next 2-6 months.

Here is the rest of the statement:

"The Rimrock Trails Residential Treatment has not been spared from these difficulties and sadly will have to temporarily close our doors until further notice," the statement said, continuing:

"Through it all, and in true Rimrock Trails fashion, our board, leadership team, community partners, and supporters are coming together to address the challenges. Now more than ever, we are resolved to reopen the program and make certain that the underserved and at-risk youth in our community have a safe, secure, and therapeutic place to heal, connect and create a path to a brighter future.

"Rimrock Trails stands steadfast in our mission to provide comprehensive evidence-based counseling services to the Central Oregon community. We will continue to serve local children, youth, adults, and families with co-occurring mental health and substance use counseling problems in our Bend, Prineville, and Redmond counseling clinics.
We thank you for your continued support during this difficult time!"

The announcement in the Rimrock Trails newsletter included a link to its page outlining donation options.

As NewsChannel 21 recently reported, similar issues are challenging other Central Oregon programs, such as BestCare Treatment Services, which offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in Prineville, Madras, Redmond, Bend and Klamath Falls. 

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

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