OAKLAND (KCBS)— A drug and alcohol treatment center for young people in Oakland is considered an invaluable resource in the East Bay community. But after 30 years, a facility is now threatened with closure by Sutter Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care corporations in the state.

Sutter has been subsidizing Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center, but says it’s been losing money. A Sutter spokesman said they lost $5 million in the last five years.

Both Sutter and Alameda County health officials have been working on a deal to save the facility, but that didn’t stop the California Nurses Association (CNA), along with other advocates from voicing their opinion in a protest on Monday.

Thunder Road’s nine-board member is expected to vote Monday on whether or not to continue operation of the facility located at 40th Street near Broadway. Sutter holds four of the nine board seats.

Renee, a former client who entered the drug and alcohol treatment program in 2004, said this clinic changed her life. She doesn’t want to see the facility close because she thinks the kids will end up either back on the streets, in jail, on drugs, or even dead.

Susan Birk said she’s worked here for 15 years, serving the estimated 350 teenagers from 13 to 19 years old.

“Without it, there would be no place for these kids to go. It’s an institution. It needs to go on. It would be a crime if it closed,” said Birk.

Three Oakland treatment centers for teenagers have closed in the last five years, according to county health officials.

Former client Norman Williams doesn’t want to see Thunder Road closed.
“It’s either go back to jail or to another group home. If they go back to another group home, they ain’t going to have the help like they did here. Might as well just keep it open.”

According to the CNA, most of the teens are referred through the criminal justice system or social service agencies.

The nurses also allege the excuse Sutter is providing for closing the facility is that it’s losing money, but that the health care provider reported $419 million in income for 2014 from its hospitals, care centers and other services.

CNA also says Sutter is able to use Thunder Road, by counting its contributions to them as a community benefit in order to maintain its non-profit status.

“We continue to work with Alameda County on a long-term solution,” said Carolyn Kemp, Sutter Health East Bay region-Alta Bates Summit’s regional manager of communications and public relations.

She said Monday’s meeting was “very productive”.

“Sutter Health and Alta Bates Summit has been very involved with a lot of community partners in the past. The partner we had picked out had found out and let us know that they couldn’t continue with the project and they withdrew in February. Our sincerest hope is that we all work together to find an option that’s a viable solution for these great kids in the area,” Kemp said.

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