Progress stalls on proposed detox center in Glenwood Springs
Progress on a proposed detox center in Glenwood Springs has ground to a halt as a key supporter has left the area, and it’s unclear who, if anyone, will step up to replace him.
Shawna Parks, program director for Mind Springs Health, which has proposed to manage the detox center, told county commissioners Monday that progress has frozen on the project after supporters have been unable to find stable funding.
In addition, Valley View Hospital’s former chief medical officer, Dr. Al Saliman, who was a driving force behind the effort to establish a new detox center, is leaving the Roaring Fork Valley.
After 30 years at Valley View, Saliman has taken a job at Montrose Memorial Hospital, where he will be chief medical officer.
Intoxicated people who need emergency treatment are straining the resources of local law enforcement, emergency medical services and hospitals.
So a group of leaders from Garfield County’s hospitals and law enforcement agencies have been meeting to discuss how to move the project forward. But the prospect of a new detox center has been stopped by the same factors that killed previous efforts: organization and money.
Saliman said that historically the problem has been with the intergovernmental agreements to fund the detox center: When one partner experiences financial stress and backs out, the whole house of cards collapses.
Silt Police Chief Levy Burris has suggested a sales tax to pay for a detox center, and others later tinkered with the idea of other types of taxes — such as an excise tax on liquor and marijuana businesses.
In their most recent meetings, the group identified two next steps that will be key to progress. First, each municipality needed to investigate the compatibility of these proposed taxes with local ordinances. Second, they needed to get seed money to hire an executive director, who would be charged with seeking grants and finding other revenue sources.
Neither of these steps have flown.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson, who’s advocated for a detox center, said the group was banking on getting seed money from the hospitals, but that option fell short of expectations.
Doing the research into the viability for these different types of taxes at the municipalities is tremendously time consuming, said Saliman, and the group already heard doubts early on from several municipalities.
Because of other tax measures on the municipalities’ November ballots, it wasn’t seen as good timing to ask for an additional tax, he said.
“Timing is everything, and it wasn’t the right time.”
Wilson said he hopes Valley View will keep someone involved, and he believes that the hospitals should be the “primary movers and shakers” of the detox effort, considering they take the biggest financial impact.
The chief also reiterated that intoxication is a medical condition, not a crime. He and the county’s other law enforcement heads have unanimously opposed paying for detox from their own budgets.
Garfield County Commissioner Michael Samson was sitting in on the group’s meetings for a while, but he later backed out to avoid any conflict of interests. Some supporters were proposing going to the county or Federal Mineral Lease District for money.
Packing his family’s belongings into moving trucks Tuesday, Saliman said he is unaware of any further meetings scheduled for the proposed detox center.
“It’s up to the communities to say whether this is a service they value and will invest in,” he said.
But considering Saliman was the person setting up these meetings, if no one else steps forward, the effort could disappear simply because another meeting is never called.
Commissioner John Martin said Monday that the county has been talking about a detox center for 40-plus years and has yet to find a “magic solution.”
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Diane Mitsch Bush was defeated by incumbent Scott Tipton in 2018 for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Mitsch Bush is running again as the Democratic candidate but this time against Republican political newcomer Lauren Boebert.