Four North Central Washington counties are working together on a plan to offer comprehensive care for people with behavioral health issues.  

Commissioners from Chelan, Douglas Grant and Okanogan counties are putting a program together that would steer people with mental health and substance abuse problems away from the criminal justice system and into recovery. 

Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay says the goal is to rehabilitate people who need help. 

"Really what it is, is to be able to provide the levels of service needed to folks that need to have this assistance to basically make them viable members of the community that are productive members, and to stabilize them, and get them well," said Overbay.  

Joining Overbay in leading the far reaching effort are Douglas County Commissioner Marc Straub, Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter and Okanogan County Commissioner Chris Branch.  

Plans include one inpatient care center for the four-county area along with numerous outpatient offices that would deliver a standardized level of care. The inpatient center will likely be in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and Ephrata.

There's already a formal name for the program  - River Care Diversion. CARE stands for Coordinated Assistance for Recovery and Empowerment.

The project is at the beginning stages, but includes workers in law enforcement, corrections and the court system along with mental health, substance abuse and managed care personnel. 

People involved in each discipline will be holding workshops amongst their peers in each county to identify objectives and strategies to make the project functional.  

Overbay says one goal is to bridge a gap and treat people who need immediate attention. 

"Within the system of treatment, often times people who are in crisis have to wait up to six months to seek care," Overbay said. "What we want to do is be able to give those folks care when they need it, right off the bat, so get them stabilized and then basically provide the mechanisms." 

Overbay says the program is meant to ultimately cover a wide range of services including prevention, post care assistance, housing, training for jobs and food services 

He says there are a myriad of services the group collectively is trying to get into a single organized program. 

The group is looking at other large-scale programs that have been successful in Miami-Dade County, Arizona and Rhode Island.  

Overbay says they’re looking at a number of funding sources, one of which will likely require public support in the form of a county sales tax increase. No specific dollar figure was given. 

He said the project could be up and running to serve the four-county area by 2024 or 2025. 

More From NewsRadio 560 KPQ