The decision of an Arlington government agency to end its contract with a private Northern Virginia organization that treats alcoholics has angered the state's senior state legislator, brought a protest from a county judge and led to a lawsuit.
The Arlington Community Services Board, which funds county drug abuse programs, decided last month not to renew its contract with Alcoholic Rehabilitation Inc., a private Arlington group that has run residential treatment programs for Northern Virginia alcoholics for 20 years.
Instead, the services board has awarded the contract to a Richmond-based program, prompting Alcoholic Rehabilitation to file suit in Arlington Circuit Court against the services board and the county.
The suit followed an unsuccessful appeal to Arlington County Manager Larry J. Brown to reverse the agency's decision to award the treatment contract to Rubicon Inc., a Richmond-based drug abuse program, which has no facilities in Northern Virginia.
Alcoholic Rehabilitation, which runs a 66-bed center on North Pollard Street and a 40-bed facility in Fauquier County, last year received $76,000 in state aid and about $200,000 from Arlington. It got about $300,000 from other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, whose continued participation may be jeopardized by the new contract, a spokesman for the organization said.
The prospect of Northern Virginia alcoholics being sent to Richmond for treatment so angered Sen. Edward E. Willey (D-Richmond), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, last week that he threatened to eliminate state funds the Arlington service board was to receive this year.
"They've got no business sending those people to Richmond," Willey told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week. "We have enough street people."
State Del. Mary A. Marshall (D-Arlington) said yesterday that area legislators are confident that Willey will agree to state funding in return for a promise not to send the Northern Virginia alcoholics to Richmond.
Willey was not the only one concerned about Northern Virginians being sent to Richmond treatment facilities. Andrew B. Ferrari, chief judge of Arlington's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, said his court had "used the program for many years, and I've been satisfied with it."
Many county judges agree with him, he said. "We need a community-based facility so you can work with the residents , and the families and probation officers can stay involved. It would be more difficult to use a program in Richmond."
According to court papers, the organization lost its contract despite making the lowest bid and receiving the highest rating from an evaluation panel that reviewed bids from three treatment programs. The suit also challenges the procedures involved in awarding the contract, including a board meeting that was allegedly closed in violation of the state's Freedom of Information law.
Betty Kole, president of the services board, declined to comment on the lawsuit. She said she believed Rubicon is trying to find sites for a Northern Virginia program.
Rubicon officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.