Aspen’s Right Door to close |

Aspen’s Right Door to close

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – With Aspen’s Right Door drug and alcohol rehabilitation program scheduled to close at the end of the year, agencies ranging from health and human service providers to law enforcement are exploring the community’s options.

Negotiations are under way that could lead to some other entity picking up the services currently offered by The Right Door, according to Nan Sundeen, the county’s director of health and human services. In addition, a place in Pitkin County is being sought for operation of a detox facility.

The search for alternatives comes not only as The Right Door prepares to shut its doors but also as a detox facility based at the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs ceases operation.

The Glenwood detox, operated by Colorado West Regional Mental Health, received $10,000 in funding from Pitkin County this year, as well as $5,000 from the city of Aspen, but the facility has not seen a great deal of use from upvalley patients, Sundeen said.

That allocation will go away next year, but 2013 funding requests from The Right Door have not been dropped, given the hope that one or more other agencies will step up to provide those services instead, she said. The city put $60,000 toward The Right Door’s operation this year, while the county provided $65,000. Requests for $90,000 from each government have been made for 2013, according to Sundeen.

The Right Door, which operates out of the Schultz Health and Human Services building off Castle Creek Road, launched in October 2003. It was the result of a growing demand for a professional help center for substance abusers.

It also has close ties to Pitkin County’s court system and local law enforcement. Often habitual drug offenders and problem drinkers receive court orders to participate in The Right Door’s treatment programs. While The Right Door does not have an in-patient program, it has referred substance abusers to other facilities. It also provides patients with transportation to detoxification centers and other treatment programs, case management and counseling and other aspects of recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

A lack of adequate financing threatened to close The Right Door at the close of 2011, but the agency continued operating while discussions of a merger with the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation began. A feasible solution did not emerge, according to Michael Campbell, chairman of the Right Door’s board of directors.

“A lot more mergers don’t happen than do,” he said.

The organization’s goal at this point is to make sure its clients are taken care of and to give its staff enough notice of the coming closure to plan their next move, he said.

Susan Kempton, administrative supervisor at The Right Door, said the agency’s caseload currently numbers about 70 active clients, including people who are being monitored for drug and alcohol sobriety and those receiving counseling services.

“We would love to stay open if we had the funding,” she said. “Our main concern is our clients at this point.”

The Right Door has typically served 1,500 to 1,600 people per year, Campbell said.

The organization opened its doors after Pitkin County stopped funding a detox holding facility that was in the Health and Human Services building. It was operated by Colorado West, Sundeen said, but it wasn’t tied to a treatment plan for the people who were taken there to sober up.

What to do about providing a detox facility and getting individuals with substance-abuse problems into treatment has repeatedly been an issue in Aspen and Pitkin County.

To varying degrees over the years, the county has used detox facilities located in Glenwood Springs.

With the closure of the jail-based facility in Glenwood, Colorado West plans to ramp up other treatment programs and partner with local hospitals to continue serving patients who need medical attention. That leaves Garfield County without a holding facility for intoxicated people who either do not face criminal charges or are not considered to be in medical danger, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported this week.

Pitkin County has no dedicated holding facility, either, but the county jail often is used, while people who need medical treatment are taken to Aspen Valley Hospital. Others are turned over to family or friends or have been taken to Glenwood.

The Pitkin County Jail has accommodated about 100 detox holds so far this year – people who were under the influence and needed a place to sober up but weren’t arrested for a crime, according to Don Bird, jail administrator. Another 20 to 30 people were brought in because they were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanors but couldn’t be released until they sobered up, he said.

The jail is seeking funding for another detention officer next year, and detox is one of the factors driving the need for the added staff, Bird said.

So far this year at Aspen Valley Hospital, 165 people have been seen for drunkenness or medical detox, according to hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche. Of that total, 154 were discharged after having been seen in the emergency room, and 11 were admitted – two at AVH and nine in either Grand Junction or Denver.

“Substance abuse is our No. 1 health problem,” Sundeen said.

The Right Door is not a detox facility – a place where someone sobers up in a safe environment – but has worked to connect clients with drug and alcohol addictions to the support they need. An effective program needs both elements – a detox facility and follow-up treatment, according to Sundeen.

“We are actively pursuing options. Our goal is seamless service,” she said.

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