Steamboat Springs A plan to treat people who struggle with abuse and dependence problems in Routt County is on the horizon.
Representatives from medical, mental health, social service and law enforcement agencies in the county laid the groundwork Tuesday for a feasible alternative to a detoxification center.
Their plan models Moffat County's STEP program, which was implemented in 1999 to eliminate unnecessary trips to the emergency room.
Officers take anyone arrested or detained and under the influence of drugs or alcohol to a STEP nurse at Moffat County's public safety center.
While the nurse examines the patient to determine if medical care is warranted, the officer books the patient into the jail if criminal charges are involved.
County officials seek a similar partnership between Yampa Valley Medical Center and law enforcement.
The tentative solution demands a commitment from law enforcement agencies to share the program's operational costs based on their level of utilization.
"The truth is that every one is going to have to give dollars and put money into this program," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
Partnering agencies need to pay their fair share, she said.
County Human Services Director Bob White expects patients will help reimburse about 10 percent of the cost of treatment.
Agencies would pick up the remaining costs.
"The reality is that a lot of these folks don't have the means to pay," White said.
However, those who can pay, will.
"We will be as aggressive with that as law and ethics dictate," he said.
The state could pitch in some unexpected cash.
Detoxification centers in Northwest Colorado share a small amount of state funding.
If Routt County pursued a detoxification center, it would need to dip into funds already earmarked for centers in Glenwood Springs, Gunnison and Grand Junction.
The recent closure of Gunnison's detoxification center may free up some state funds for the county, White said.
Agency representatives identified their preliminary solution was only a Band-Aid treatment to the larger problem of drug and alcohol abuse.
"This is a short-term fix to a long-term problem," Routt County Sheriff John Warner said.
But they also recognized their discussion was a step in the right direction.
"Small increments are better than what we have now," White said.
The county's imitation of the STEP program will play out in the Routt County Jail.
One holding cell is available for patients to sober up under supervision.
Staff from Steamboat Mental Health will screen patients brought to the jail and determine if their condition requires medical attention at the hospital.
Patients whose condition is deemed safe are supervised in their cell and offered counseling when they can make reasonable, rational decisions.
Counseling is imperative because it helps to buck the cycle of dependency and abuse.
"We want to give as much aftercare as possible," White said. "We want to eliminate the revolving door."
People are less likely to return if they are given the tools and support to overcome their addiction, he said.
The detoxification workgroup is looking at other locations to place patients when the holding cell is occupied.
Warner warned that cell availability depends on the volume of jail inmates.
"I may not have a holding cell available," he said.
The proposed 2003 county budget includes $60,000 for a detoxification program.
The workgroup is looking further down the road to a more far-reaching solution. Money is now available to fund local alternatives to in-patient care.
The county sends people who require more intense treatment for alcohol and drug abuse to Pueblo, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction.
White and others would like to keep patients as close to home as possible rather than transporting them elsewhere.
"It makes sense to have it," he said.