Does Aspen need a detox center? | AspenTimes.com

Does Aspen need a detox center?

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A report will soon be available to the public that details Aspen’s necessity ? or lack thereof ? for a local detoxification center.

The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is sponsoring the study by Vince Savage, a consultant with the alcohol and drug abuse division of the Colorado Health Department. He said he will put “all the pieces of the puzzle” into his report, so a decision can be made on whether a center is needed.

The debate over a possible in-town treatment facility for substance abusers has raged for two decades. Aspen has never had a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week recovery center for drug abusers ? alcohol or otherwise.

A small operation was run for a few years at the health and human services building, but currently the closest center is in Glenwood Springs, the Colorado West Recovery Center, which serves as a regional detox site. Police have said that they take very few people to the Glenwood center, since it’s rare anyone will go so far away voluntarily.

Police also say the trip costs $244 for each person transported downvalley.

Savage said he has spent time interviewing officials at local counseling centers, as well as with the Chemical Dependency Task Force. He has also spoken with Don Bird at the Pitkin County Jail, hospital officials and police.

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According to one hospital official, a $450,000 loss was taken last year treating people with substance abuse symptoms, Savage said. The loss results from many people not being in a position to pay for the treatment.

“I’m also finding out that one of the difficulties is that people may end up in the county jail for the right reasons ? because they are a danger to themselves or others ? but if they’re very intoxicated, despite the efforts of the jail staff they may be under-treated,” Savage said. “They will be held and let out.”

By mid-October, Savage hopes to have a draft of the study. Kris Marsh, executive director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, said she sees a large need for this kind of data.

“We’ve gone to the feds twice, trying to get a federal grant,” she said. “But we realized we didn’t have the detail we needed to demonstrate our need. Rather than giving up, we’re doing research about who needs the facility [and] whether we can justify the numbers and go after additional funding for this.”

Marsh said the foundation wants more than a so-called “drunk tank” and envisions a place that would facilitate getting treatment, with in-patient treatment for three to five days.

Savage said hopefully the study will break the “stakeholder gridlock” that has plagued the issue of a local detox center by presenting clear data on the subject.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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