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County eyes its detox options

Jeremy Heiman

Aspen and Pitkin County authorities may have to transport intoxicated people to a recovery center in Glenwood Springs until a facility is arranged in the Aspen area.

Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center closed its Aspen detoxification holding facility April 5. Pitkin County will save about $20,000 that it had intended to pay toward operation of the holding center, and some of that money may be used to fund transportation of clients to the Colorado West center in Glenwood instead.

County commissioners discussed the situation Tuesday.

Nan Sundeen, director of Human Services for Pitkin County, said Aspen Valley Hospital has committed to build a detox facility in its medical office building, at a cost of perhaps $250,000, but that project is on hold indefinitely. The hospital would not participate in operation of the facility, Sundeen added.

Pitkin County jailer Don Bird said city and county law enforcement officers now have three options when they apprehend people who are so intoxicated they are a danger to themselves or others.

The first choice is to find a sober, responsible friend or family member to take the person home. Or, if the individual needs medical treatment, he or she will be taken to Aspen Valley Hospital’s emergency room, leaving hospital personnel to find someone to take the patient home.

The second alternative is to contact Colorado West in Glenwood Springs and then transport the intoxicated person there. The third alternative is a cell in the Pitkin County Jail.

“It’s nontherapeutic, to say the least,” Bird said of the holding cell at the jail. He said taking drunks to the jail is also a liability problem for the county.

Michael Lucid, assistant director for Colorado West, said he has contacted High Mountain Taxi to discuss the possibility of contracting with the taxi service to transport clients to Colorado West in Glenwood Springs.

Substance abuse is the No. 1 health problem in Pitkin County, according to an Aspen Institute report.


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