Citizens speak out after closing of city’s oldest mental health, addiction treatment agencies

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A group calling itself “Concerned Black Citizens of Columbus” is speaking out about the sudden closing of Columbus Area Integrated Health Services (CAIHS) — one of the city’s oldest mental health and addiction treatment agencies.

Lawrence Auls, a spokesman for the group, said the abrupt closure was mean, wrong and unjustified.

“People are being scattered as though no one is concerned about people who were seriously wounded, Auls said. “We’re talking about people being torn apart from relationships that they’ve had for 25 or 30 years.”

The CAIHS Board of Trustees voted to turn over administrative authority of the agency to the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH).  ADAMH announced it is closing the facility.

David Royer, CEO of ADAMH said he appreciates the anger and frustration but says the agency was no longer financially viable.

“What I would hope that they understand is that it was the leadership of that agency that failed this community,” Royer said. “It’s not the ADAMH Board.”

Royer says records show that the former CEO and COO of CAIHS started authorizing high-cost loans against agency receivables — money that the agency was expecting. 

“They started entering into these discount loan programs on receivables and when they couldn’t make those payments, that’s when the organization failed,” Royer said.

But Auls says while CAIHS was not in good shape financially, he believes it still had life.

“No one has to defend a bad decision,” Auls said. “The question really on the table is this: was that the only solution to throw all these people out and to treat them meanly?”

Royer says work continues to find services for the 1,400 clients of CAIHS. He says more than 300 clients have already been referred to other programs.

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