Flood of clients utilize the Right Door | AspenTimes.com

Flood of clients utilize the Right Door

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

Charles Agar
Aspen Times Staff Writer

ASPEN ” People with drug and alcohol problems are filing through the Right Door, Aspen’s fledgling nonprofit geared to providing case management and support.

Opened in October 2003 to fill a void in drug and alcohol treatment in the Aspen area, the Right Door has doubled its budget and case load each year.

Brad Osborn, executive director, predicts 2008 will top $500,000 in revenues and expenses.

Osborn garnered praise and an additional $20,000 in support from the Pitkin County commissioners this month ” National Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month. And, he said his staff is taxed by a flood of clients.

For years, with no local detox or treatment center, Aspen area law enforcement officials and Aspen Valley Hospital staff simply sent people in crisis to the detox center in Glenwood Springs by taxi.

But in 2002, Osborn saw the need for follow-up with those in need of help.

Osborn approached court officials and, with the help of Kris Marsh, executive director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, opened the Right Door with a $14,000 grant from a court fund collected from alcohol and drug offenders.

“Our goal is to provide case management service,” Osborn said, and that means leading clients to the resources they need to get into what he called the “recovery lifestyle.”

“It’s at that point of crisis and intervention when we get them,” Osborn said, adding that many clients come via the jail or the hospital, but increasingly contact the agency on their own.

Working with Colorado West Mental Health, the state agency that runs the detox center, the first step for clients is detoxification, and Right Door staff shuttles clients to and from Glenwood Springs in a vehicle donated by the county, Osborn said.

But the ultimate goal is developing long-term plans for clients, introducing them to a 12-step program and providing legal, medical and social resources, Osborn said.

Osborn recommends clients attend a 28-day drug and alcohol treatment program followed by a long-range follow-up.

“If they can’t afford [treatment], we work with them here,” Osborn said, and many clients attend the Aspen Counseling Center’s intensive outpatient program.

“We know the longer we can keep them engaged in the recovery process, the better chance they’re going to have at staying clean and sober,” Osborn said.

Clients at the Right Door sign a “case management agreement” listing their goals, a commitment that for many becomes a condition of a court bond, Osborn said.

“We have an exceptional relationship with the court here,” Osborn said.

Many Right Door clients must submit to drug testing and are required to keep in regular contact with his staff, a principle borrowed from 12-step programs, Osborn said.

“What we ask them to do is not that easy. It’s a structured way of helping someone focus on what they want to accomplish,” Osborn said. “It’s really hit or miss. Some just want to go back to jail.”

Growing from 17 clients in 2003, the Right Door saw 128 clients in 2004, 234 in 2005 and 447 in 2006.

“We’re on a pace to do almost 800 clients this year. It’s unmanageable. We’ve had to hire additional staff,” Osborn said.

Including Osborn, the Right Door employs a total of four trained substance abuse clinicians and nine other staff members ” many part-time ” fill other roles.

The Right Door receives $60,000 annually from the city of Aspen and $45,000 from Pitkin County’s Healthy Communities Fund.

Thanks to an in-kind donation from Pitkin County, the Right Door moved into vacant space in the Health and Human Services building adjacent to Aspen Valley Hospital in 2007.

Mia Valley, a longtime Aspen resident, held the first “Small Miracles” fundraiser in 2004 in honor of her brother who died from alcoholism, and raised $164,000 for the nonprofit ” and another event in 2006 raised $100,000, Osborn said.

But Osborn expects a budget shortfall of more than $40,000 in 2007 and is busy raising funds, including the additional $20,000 from the county, to stay in the black.

For now Osborn does not charge clients. Instead, referring agencies such as law enforcement or the hospital pay for client’s transport to detox in Glenwood Springs. In 2008, Osborn will begin charging on a sliding scale, adding, “We will not turn anyone away.”

In addition, Osborn manages a $60,000 fund set aside to develop a clubhouse for local 12-step groups, and said he plans a capital campaign to create such a center.

The Right Door also operates a day room for area homeless people and Osborn is active on Aspen’s Homeless Coalition.

“The majority of our homeless population has substance abuse problems,” Osborn said, and the Right Door provides meals and resources, working closely with other agencies at Health and Human Services to get area homeless people the help they need.

But the biggest challenge is finding transitional housing in Aspen for people in need.

“We need a shelter,” Osborn said. “The hardest thing is when somebody wants support, but they’ve been evicted.”

Salaries: $180,000 (13 full- and part-time employees)