Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare was the sole bidder for the county’s behavioral health and developmental disability contracts.

The county put the two contracts out for bid in February, the first time in several years the county invited competition to its longtime partner.

But no other providers attended a mandatory preproposal conference in early March or submitted requests for proposals by Friday’s deadline.

“Responding to this RFP has been an opportunity for us to reflect on how far we’ve come and what we hope to do in the future to serve this community,” Amy Baker, the executive director of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, said in an email. “Whether we were the only bidder or not, this in no way influenced how we approached the process.

“We look forward to the county’s response.”

Monica Steele, the interim county manager, said the county will score the bids and call Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare for an interview. County commissioners have the final say over the contracts, which start in July.

The county had been in discussions for several months about putting the contracts out for bid, but the public announcement in January came at a time when county leaders were frustrated by a lack of transparency at the private nonprofit.

Questions about the agency’s management and stability resurfaced after Baker was placed on administrative leave by the agency’s board in December over her on-call responsibilities at the crisis respite center in Warrenton. She returned to work in January after an internal investigation, but two board members resigned in protest.

The public scrutiny of the agency over Baker’s leave turned up other problems, including the disclosure that the state Department of Human Services nearly pulled the developmental disability contract last fall over the lack of oversight of adult foster homes.

As part of the bidding process, county staff added new contract requirements to improve transparency. Providers have to make quarterly reports to county commissioners, and a county representative must be allowed to attend regular meetings of a provider’s governing board.

“The interview process will be an opportunity for us to address any concerns that we might currently have, and what they would do to improve upon those concerns,” Steele said.

The county anticipated some competition for the contracts after other providers showed interest.

Steele said a provider from Washington state contacted the county, but wanted to extend the start date of the new contract for several months past July. The provider, she said, also asked if the county would separate some of the services.

“And that wasn’t something that we were willing to do,” Steele said.

The behavioral health contract covers mental health and substance abuse treatment. The developmental disability contract covers care for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and epilepsy.

Steele said a local provider asked about submitting a bid but had missed the mandatory preproposal conference.

A separate contract for the crisis respite center is also expected to go out for bid this year. Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare operates the respite center on behalf of a coalition that includes the county, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria and Providence Seaside Hospital.

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