Officials move on detox center

Agencies agree to help get program up and running

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— People who struggle with alcohol abuse will soon have a local site where they can sober up and receive counseling.

Representatives from medical, mental health, social service and law enforcement agencies in the county decided Tuesday to launch a trial detox program Feb. 20.

Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley Medical Center each committed $6,750 to help get the program up and running until June 30.

"As this is new, we all know there are going to be bumps," said Karl Gills, chief executive officer of Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The group of people tasked with creating and implementing the program hope its test run gives them some time to work out the bumps. But they are confident their plan is an improvement on what is currently in place to handle alcohol abuse and dependency.

Law enforcement officials are anxious about holding intoxicated people who might have medical problems in jail, and the hospital is concerned when intoxicated people who don't require medical treatment tie up emergency department staff.

"In most of these situations, we're ready to send these people home with a safer, sober friend -- if we can find one," emergency medicine physician David Cionni said.

Money from the city, county and hospital will pay for a network of on-call people with mental health qualifications to screen patients brought to the Routt County Jail or hospital.

Colorado West Regional Mental Health will contribute $2,000 monthly during the program's trial run. Client fees are expected to bring in another $500 a month.

Patients whose condition is deemed safe would remain under supervision in a holding cell at the jail until they sobered up and could receive counseling.

Other locations, such as a hotel room, are plausible options if the holding cell is occupied.

County Human Services Director Bob White said the program's trial run would offer a clearer picture of the need and options for an overflow site.

The decision to launch the trial detox program comes after months of collaboration among local agencies to find a solution to the growing number of alcohol and drug abuse cases in the county.

The program outlines how law enforcement, emergency responders and medical personnel should handle intoxicated individuals.

Under the guidelines, police would take intoxicated people directly to the holding cell unless they failed to meet a list of criteria.

If intoxicated individuals failed to meet the list of criteria, police would summon emergency medical personnel, who would either take the patients to the hospital or allow police to take patients to the holding cell.

Under the guidelines, police would transport intoxicated hospital walk-ins to the holding cell if an emergency medicine physician determined they had no other condition than an elevated blood-alcohol level.

Law enforcement, emergency responders and medical personnel will receive training on the new guidelines in the next two weeks before the program takes effect.

The county, city and hospital may have to contribute additional dollars to the program when the trial period ends. White believes state funds will be available to continue the program.

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