Plans for detox center suffer setback as feds reject grant |

Plans for detox center suffer setback as feds reject grant

Janet Urquhart

Efforts to establish a new detoxification center in Aspen suffered a setback with the recent news that an anticipated federal grant will not be forthcoming.

The discouraged Chemical Dependency Task Force is now in something of a “holding pattern,” according to Kris Marsh, executive director of the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and a task force member. “It’s hard to keep moving forward when the answer is always `no,’ ” she said.

The task force has been working to re-establish a detox center in the Aspen area since Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center closed its former holding facility in town in April 1999.

That detox center, operating at the Shultz Health and Human Services Building, served between 160 and 180 people per year, Assistant Police Chief Keith Ikeda told the Aspen City Council late last year.

The council agreed to put up $10,000 so the task force could hire a grant writer to draft proposals for outside funding. The group applied for two federal grants and one from a private foundation, according to Marsh.

The task force had high hopes it would receive $1.2 million from a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which would fund operation of a detox center for three years, she said.

“We got an initial response about a month ago saying we’d scored well,” Marsh said. About two weeks ago, the group learned the grant request had been denied.

Forty of some 250 grant applicants nationwide received funding, she said.

Before Aspen’s detox center closed, it served individuals who were obviously intoxicated, stoned or otherwise incapacitated by drugs and/or alcohol, but who either had not committed a serious enough offense to land them in jail or were so intoxicated as to be considered a liability by the jail staff, according to Ikeda.

The former detox facility was not considered adequate, and Colorado West had difficulty keeping it staffed 24 hours a day.

In its grant proposal, the task force outlined plans for a detox center that could offer real assistance to individuals who need it, according to Marsh.

“Rather than a holding facility where somebody just dries out for 24 hours, we created a model to help guide people – not force them, but guide them – into counseling,” she said. “We felt it was sort of on the cutting edge of thinking.”

Currently, intoxicated individuals are either held in the jail, sent to the hospital if they have a medical problem, or sent home, Marsh said. None of those options is the proper response, she added.

“We really need a place that can lead people into treatment,” Marsh said.

A staffed detox facility is available in Glenwood Springs, but individuals often don’t want to be taken there, she said.

The task force could reapply for the federal grant in January or May. Since that money would be slated for operations, though, the group is still faced with the prospect of finding a site for the facility and raising the capital funds to build it.

Aspen Valley Hospital had agreed to include a detox center in a medical office building it proposed on its campus, but the hospital has never moved forward with project.

Meanwhile, the City Council agreed last month to budget $25,000 for a detox manager in 2001. Part of those funds were to go to a study of potential sites for the center, according to Marsh.

Mayor Rachel Richards urged the council to take the lead on moving plans for a detox center forward, even if it means putting a ballot measure before voters next November to make the project happen.

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