Following decision to keep Wiley Creek open, hospital CEO says Samaritan to seek treatment facility site, work with local residents

Audrey Gomez

In response to community protests, Samaritan Health Services administrators have abandoned plans to convert Wiley Creek Community assisted living care center to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

The change in direction was swift: On Jan. 12, they announced the initial change to residents and staff. By the morning of Jan. 15, after vocal opposition from community members and residents, they changed course.

Though Samaritan will continue to operate the assisted living facilities, officials still plan to open a rehabilitation center in Sweet Home. In addition to searching for a new location for the rehab facility, Samaritan officials say they plan to work hard at repairing the relationship with Sweet Home community members.

Marty Cahill, chief executive officer of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital met with The New Era Friday morning, shortly after Samaritan issued a press release in which Dr. Larry A. Mullins, president and CEO of Samaritan Health Services, announced the change in plans.

“We have talked about alcohol and drug rehab for a long time,” Cahill said. “That’s been part of public meetings. Not necessarily Wiley Creek, but the idea that we need those things. That needs to be within our service area.”

He said the decision to close down the assisted living center at Wiley Creek, which would have required eviction of 44 residents, that was announced Tuesday had been made “probably” at the end of the prior week.

Mullins said Samaritan still plans to open a 15-bed substance abuse treatment facility, but “will explore other location options to develop the program in the region. Several feasible options have been presented since making the original announcement to transition Wiley Creek just a few days ago.”

Looking for a new location may not affect the time frame they were hoping to get up and running, Cahill said.

“It might take us four to six months with licensing, credentialing, and all of those things to get it up and running,” Cahill said.

They have not chosen a site, he said but they are in the vetting process.

“It takes more time than a couple of days,” he said. “(We) couldn’t get it done by today, but we also knew we needed to make a decision. The unknown was worse than the known.”

While Cahill said he was not at liberty to discuss the sites they are considering, he did say he does not believe any of the sites are presently occupied by other people.

Cahill acknowledged that the process for notifying residents and their families was

When Samaritan announced the plan to transition Wiley Creek, Cahill said the plan was to meet with residents, then call family members and issue registered letters with information about the meetings that were to be held Thursday evening “for people who wanted to get there early” and at 9 a.m. Saturday, the latter for “people who lived farther away.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Cahill faced a barrage of angry criticism over Samaritan’s handling of the situation, among other complaints, from residents and their families and friends.

The focus of Saturday’s meeting will now be to let the people of Sweet Home know that they’ve been heard, Cahill said.

Now that the question of Wiley Creek’s future has been decided, the next step is to move forward, he said.

“We need to mend fences. We need to get back and talk with folks – again, taking the passion those folks had and focus on moving forward.

“We’ll be reaching out to them. Hopefully, we’ll come together to work together to maintain and ensure that this program continues. Our commitment is there. We’re here now. And I sense that their passion and commitment is there too. It’s not a question of that now. It’s a question of how do we start that process?”

Cahill said Samaritan will work with Sweet Home residents to determine how to do that. He openly stated at Thursday’s meeting that Wiley Creek is in the red, though he said a substance abuse treatment center would be too.

“It’s getting the right people together on this, those that have time and passion to put into this.

“They were very passionate about keeping it open,” Cahill said. “What we’ve heard is that they don’t want us to make decisions in a vacuum. We’d be more than happy to talk to them about what could be garnered for that facility, based on the outcry we’ve heard, what we could work together on.”