Mental health agency lays off 16

In recent years, the nonprofit's funding, client base shrank

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Columbia River Mental Health Services has eliminated 16 positions in an attempt to reduce the nonprofit's infrastructure and recoup financial losses.

The cuts were primarily to support staff positions, rather than staff who directly provide services to clients. As a result, the cuts will not affect programs, said Lynn Samuels, executive director of Columbia River Mental Health.

The big driver for the layoffs was financial, she said.

For the last two years, the nonprofit has lost money. Eliminating those 16 positions will save the nonprofit about $800,000 a year in salaries and benefits, Samuels said.

"Being a nonprofit doesn't mean you can operate in the red," she said. "Eventually, you run out of money. It's not a business model that can be sustained."

The other reason for the layoffs, Samuels said, is that the organization's client base has shrunk, making a large infrastructure unnecessary.

Clark County currently has one of the lowest rates of Medicaid patients seeking behavioral health services. In addition, the nonprofit lost the contract to operate Hotel Hope, an inpatient facility, three years ago, Samuels said.

The declining client population left the organization too top-heavy, she said.

Columbia River Mental Health began offering voluntary layoffs last summer. A few people accepted the offers, but the nonprofit issued the bulk of the layoffs in December, Samuels said.

The positions included three directors, three managers, one IT position and one accounting position, among other support positions, she said. The nonprofit now has about 180 employees.

It will now focus on getting back to its core services and business model, and work to strengthen those areas, Samuels said.

"Three thousand people, on any given day, are counting on us," she said.

Columbia River Mental Health, founded in 1942, provides a range of behavioral health services for children, adults and families in Clark County.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.