Steamboat Springs The county's trial detoxification program is a week old, and despite a few first-run kinks, officials are pleased with the changes it has brought to the old way of dealing with people who struggle with alcohol abuse.
"There have been bumps here and there, but we are smoothing them out together," County Human Services Director Bob White said.
Medical, mental health, social service and law enforcement agencies in Routt County are collaborating on the project, which began Feb. 20 and is slated to run until June 30.
The trial detox program was launched after months of collaboration by those agencies to find a solution to the growing number of alcohol and drug abuse cases in the county.
Law enforcement officials were concerned about holding intoxicated people with possible medical problems in jail, and intoxicated people who didn't require medical treatment were tying up emergency room staff in the hospital.
The detox program provides a place for people to go when they need somewhere to sober up and receive counseling.
Money from the city, county and hospital pays for a network of on-call staffers with mental health qualifications to screen patients brought to the Routt County Jail or Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Under the new program, police take intoxicated people directly to a holding cell at the jail unless their condition demands medical treatment at the hospital.
Patients whose condition is deemed safe by the on-call screener remain under supervision in the holding cell until they sober up and are able to receive counseling.
In setting up the program, there were some concerns about what to do with patients when the holding cell was occupied. Sheriff John Warner said jail staff has not run into that problem yet.
Most patients have stayed in the cell only about six to eight hours because friends or family have been contacted and taken the patients home, he said.
Tom Gangel, program director for Steamboat Mental Health Center, said three people have been helped since last Thursday. The counseling appears to be working on patients, he said.
"It's an interesting success story," he said.
Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley Medical Center have committed $6,750 to help get the program up and running.
Colorado West Regional Mental Health is contributing $2,000 monthly during the four-month trial run. Client fees are expected to bring in another $500 a month.
"It's going, and we think it's going to work," Gangel said.