Trial detox center gets closer to reality

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council asked city staff to find $6,750 to help fund a trial detox center.

The city is among four local agencies that were asked to support a program that provides a place for residents to get treatment and counseling for drug and alcohol abuse. The council agreed Tuesday to provide $1,500 per month for the first 4 1/2 months of the program.

Some council members were reluctant to commit beyond that trial period.

"At least as I see it, the city does not directly get involved in the social services, the health sector," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said. "That is not our realm. But I think we can set aside money to help get (the program) off the ground and started."

The council directed staff to look for funding in the trial period, which is from Feb. 15 through June 30.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the city did not budget money for a detox center. The city would look first at taking money from the public safety department's budget. But if the money is not there, Hughes said the money could come out of reserves.

"Right now I don't know the answer to if funding could be found in public safety. We have to look and see," Hughes said.

Tom Gangel of Steamboat Mental Health said after the trial period, the city may be asked to continue a contribution similar to the $1,500 per month.

"I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that this is going to be an ongoing deal," Councilman Bud Romberg said.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the reason the program ends June 30 is to coincide with the end of the state's fiscal year. Stahoviak said Bob White, director of Human Services, feels strongly the state will provide some funds for the project.

"Since we have been talking about this for such a long time, I feel like we are closer now than we have been in finding a solution," Stahoviak said. "The goal is to go ahead and implement something now."

Council President Kathy Connell said future money could come out of the city's Human Resource Coalition fund, which gave money to 16 nonprofit and service organizations in 2002.

Last year, Yampa Valley Medical Center incurred $158,000 in charges for emergency care for intoxicated patients. Some of the patients were sick enough to be admitted, but many others just tied up medical staff.

"The sheriff can't afford the risk of keeping (intoxicated people) in the jail and it is a huge burden to the hospital costing them thousands and thousands of dollars," Gangel told the council.

Plans are for the trial detox center to be placed at 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 conditions require medical attention at the hospital.

Routt County and Yampa Valley Medical Center were also asked to contribute $1,500 a month to support the detox center. Colorado West Mental Health was asked to contribute $2,000 a month, and client fees are expected to bring in $500 a month.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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