State reviewing Lifeways residential facility’s abrupt shutdown

Lifeways closed its Recovery Center located at 686 N.W. 9th St. on April 3. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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ONTARIO – The Oregon Health Authority is reviewing the circumstances that led Lifeways Inc. to close its substance abuse treatment facility in Ontario. State officials said Lifeways doesn’t appear to have properly notified clients or the state of its move.

Lifeways shut its Lifeways Recovery Center on April 3, laying off all of the facility’s staff and cutting short the stay of 24 clients. Lifeways is continuing its other operations, the company said.

The closure came as Lifeways considered how to continue operating the residential center in the face of COVID-19 concerns.

“We find it difficult to mitigate the risk and high chance of exposure to clients and staff,” Lifeways said in its one-page notice to clients dated March 27.

The Oregon Health Authority, which regulates Lifeways, told the Enterprise that state rules required Lifeways to give the state 90 days notice it was closing and 30 days to its clients.

The notice issued by Lifeways “does not comply” with those requirements, according to Sarah Kelber, communications officer for the health authority.

Kelber said the state reached out to all 24 clients discharged by Lifeways and 20 were connected to other providers.

For two clients, “neither was provided an adequate referral” and the state is “looking for space in a statewide residential program for one client and in an outpatient facility for another,” Kelber wrote in an email to the Enterprise.

She clarified that in those two instances, “there was no connection or transition provided. One of the individuals referred did not have documented clinical justification for an outpatient level of care.”

She said the health authority’s Health Systems Division would be reviewing information from Lifeways with the state Justice Department.

“It will be determined at that time if additional information is needed,” Kelber wrote.

Lifeways declined Monday to address written questions about the state’s information.

“I understand your journalistic curiosities. However, Lifeways will not be providing the Malheur Enterprise any further information at this time. I hope you can respect and understand our stance with your requests at this time,” Tim Hoekstra, Lifeways chief executive officer, wrote in an email Monday.

In a letter Lifeways, Inc. provided to community partners on March 27, the organization blamed COVID-19 for the decision to close the facility for an undetermined amount of time.

Lifeways told clients that for two weeks it had explored “many options to mitigate the risk and challenges COVID-19 pandemic presented” but concluded “we have no other choice than the decision to close Lifeways Recovery Center.”

But in interviews, some of the facility’s staff said they had been pressured by administrators to continue to take in more clients up until the day employees were laid off. 

“OHA will be reviewing all the facts, including how the public health emergency impacted the situation, to determine whether LRC did all it could to prevent the closure,” Kelber said.

Prior coverage:

‘Retaliated against’: Patients, staff reel as Lifeways closes one facility in Ontario

Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.


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