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Kootenai Health temporarily closes behavioral health and addiction recovery services

In a media statement, Kootenai Health CEO Jon D. Ness cited "chronic underfunding" as the reason behind this closing.

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — Kootenai Health announced in a media statement Friday that its behavioral health and addiction recovery services are closed.

In the media statement, Kootenai Health CEO Jon D. Ness cited "chronic underfunding" as the reason behind this closing.

"Our newspapers are littered everyday with real stories about the impact of long-term underfunding of behavioral health services in our community, our state and nationally," Ness said in the statement. "As a result of this chronic underfunding, it is becoming increasingly difficult for standalone, individual providers like Kootenai Health and Heritage Health to provide the full scope of behavior services needed by our community."

"Idaho is currently blessed with a budget surplus, so this may be a good opportunity for a serious conversation about improved funding for behavioral health services. This would be very helpful to vulnerable individuals, families, schools, law enforcement, and behavioral health providers," Ness continued.

Ness went on to say the Kootenai Health agrees with those who are upset about the decision to temporarily close the addiction recovery program.

In another press message, Kootenai Health said that, consistent with national trends, several key providers in behavioral health have departed or retired. These providers reportedly left for a multitude of reasons, including:

  • Stress and burnout from the pandemic 
  • Staffing shortages from the pandemic
  • An imbalance between providers retiring and new graduates entering the workforce
  • Providers leaving the stress of in-person work to work remotely
  • Costs to hire one temporary physician to cover the addiction recovery program for a year would be $1 million

Ultimately, Kootenai Health cited the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages and subsequent financial hardships as the main reasons behind the temporary closing. Kootenai Health also said that changing the current model which underfunds behavioral health will require "legislative and voter support."

Kootenai Health concluded the press message by saying that protests should be focused in Washington D.C. and Boise.

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