Livermore invests $2.4 million in drug treatment facility

LIVERMORE — The city will loan a $2.4 million nonprofit to buy a former Livermore church with the goal of turning it into the Tri-Valley’s first inpatient drug addiction treatment and counseling facility for vulnerable and low-income people transform income.

While the timeline for the church’s conversion into such a facility is still unclear, officials say it is badly needed in the eastern portion of Alameda County, where there is a shortage of drug treatment options for people who cannot afford private ones to pay for sobering-up centers, or for those without top-notch health insurance.

“Our people have been so underserved, and people have literally died because they don’t have a place to go to get treatment,” Eric Uranga, Livermore’s assistant community development director, said in an interview.

“So this is a great opportunity,” he said.

“The lack of inpatient drug and alcohol treatment services in the Tri-Valley” is a “major impediment to providing vulnerable residents with the services they need,” according to city reports.

“This is something that the east side of the county has been missing for a while,” Councilman Bob Carling said at a May City Council meeting that approved the loan.

“It will be a wonderful addition to the city’s contribution to working for those most in need,” he said.

The former church compound is located at 2346 Walnut St., on the corner of Junction Avenue, and was last occupied by Victory Baptist Church. It consists of a main sanctuary building with a classroom and office space, and a modular office that includes a full kitchen, bathroom and shower, city reports said. Uranga said the site would lend itself as a good treatment facility, which is “very, badly needed” in the region.

When homeless in the Tri-Valley today are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction problems, they often have nowhere to go, which can prevent them from accessing other safety-net services such as shelter and counseling. officials said.

“Detox programs and disenchantment programs are legitimately an entry point into the broader care system,” said Jaime Campos, executive director of Horizon Services, which provides drug and alcohol treatment programs throughout Alameda County.

“If someone is under the influence of alcohol at the time they attempt to seek treatment, they often cannot start in a lower level of care, such as a residential home, that would not be equipped to deal with withdrawal symptoms,” he said he.

Currently the closest inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility to Livermore is Cherry Hill, a detox and detox program run by Horizon in San Leandro. Cherry Hill has a 50-bed sobriety program and a 32-bed detox program, city reports said.

However, demand in the county for such programs is very high as national trends of rising overdose numbers have accelerated during the pandemic, reports from Campos and the city said.

“Oftentimes, the city’s homeless liaison officers and/or nonprofit partners will transport homeless people to the facility only to find that there is no more space,” Livermore officials said.

“The need in the county is just enormous,” said Campos.

“If someone brings a potential candidate into the program and they come all the way from Livermore, it’s difficult because we only have so many staff and so many beds to oversee,” Campos said.

“So it’s a delicate dance to maximize access to treatments when people need them, but at the same time we have limited capacity and manpower,” Campos said.

The city is lending approximately $2.4 million of city affordable housing funds to the Housing Consortium of the East Bay, an Oakland nonprofit, to purchase the property for $2.1 million and “pre-development costs.” worth $300,000 to cover. These include “testing, feasibility studies for development, architectural design costs and administrative costs,” according to city reports.

The housing consortium will serve as property owners until the city “can find a well-qualified nonprofit service provider” to operate the drug treatment facility, according to an employee report.

The city is in talks with the nonprofit Hayward La Familia, which provides a range of mental health and community services, as a potential contractor to operate the site, but nothing is official yet, Uranga said.

The city is also working closely with the Alameda County Behavioral Health Department and the Office of County Supervisor David Haubert to attempt to secure funding from the state’s Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program for the facility. This money would allow the city to repay its loan in full, and ownership could be transferred to a nonprofit organization to run the program.

According to City of Livermore officials, if the grant application is denied, the non-profit housing association will keep the city funds and instead develop an affordable housing project on the site.

Horizon’s Campos said many more services like the potential Tri-Valley drug program are needed in Alameda County.

“That would be a welcome addition over there in the Livermore area. We would support that 100 percent,” he said.

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