GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Area officials are trying to come up with a more effective "detox" center in Garfield County, where people can get treatment for alcohol or drug problems.
The issue will come up at the Oct. 15 meeting of the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The commissioners want to pull money away from the current detox program, which experts say is ineffective, and put it into a new detox arrangement.
The matter was raised by the Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center, in Glenwood Springs, which received a $28,000 grant this year from the county's Human Services Commission, for use in Colorado West's alcohol and drug detoxification program in Garfield County.
Most of that money has been spent, but mental health officials want to use what is left to create a new detox program for the county.
For the past two years, the detox program for Garfield County has revolved around two cells in the county jail used to house drunk drivers and others accused of alcohol- and drug-related infractions.
For noncriminal drinking and drug problems, people were being taken to either Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs or Grand River Hospital in Rifle, a practice that both hospitals say can continue into the future.
"Valley View Hospital is happy to support Colorado West in the treatment of outpatient substance abuse in the Roaring Fork Valley," said Chief Clinical Officer Deb Wiepking, a sentiment echoed by Grand River CEO Jim Coombs.
But the jail arrangement was not working out well, according to Krista McClinton of Edwards, who is regional director for Colorado West Mental Health.
She expressed gratitude to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario for making the cells available after other local detox options closed.
But, she said, the current program is ineffective at keeping drunks from leaving the jail, getting drunk and ending up right back in jail.
"Detox comes up at every community meeting," McClinton told the BOCC at a work session on Oct. 2, explaining that a year ago District Judge Denise Lynch called together a community group to work on improving detox options in Garfield County.
A significant part of the group's discussion, said McClinton, was about the use of the jail cells for people who were not ordered by a judge to undergo treatment after committing a crime.
In noncriminal cases, she said, people would sober up in the cells and simply be released back onto the streets.
"There was a lot of dissatisfaction around it," McClinton said of the jail arrangement, because there was no counseling or aftercare in place for people when they left the jail.
Treatment is needed, the group concluded, to keep patients sober and prevent recidivism, McClinton said.
"The consensus was that [the current arrangement] actually does not meet the community's need," said McClinton.
McClinton and John Romero, head of the Roaring Fork Counseling Center, asked the BOCC on Oct. 2 to redirect what is left of the $28,000 Human Services Commission grant, which comes to about $5,000, to a new detox program.
More money is needed to create an effective detox program, officials agreed at the Oct. 2 work session, but they also agreed that such matters will take some time to be worked out.
The new detox program, however, has yet to be fully fleshed out, according to Colorado West CEO Sharon Raggio, and the jail cells are still in use for now, until a better program is devised.
"I support the idea," wrote Vallario in an email to the Post Independent. "I support anything we can do to help with the substance abuse problem."