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High cost hijacks detox program

Steamboat Pilot & Today
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— Due to the high cost, those in need of detox are again being taken to Routt County Jail.

“It’s not how we want it to be, but the cost got so high that we could no longer afford it,” Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said.

Up until October, the city and county had been contracting with Mind Springs Health to run detox out of a room in the Routt County Justice Center. Before that, Mind Springs workers would come to the jail to monitor people brought in for detox.

Both Wiggins and Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen have concerns about housing detox at the jail, but it is currently the only solution they have. They believe a jail is not the right environment for someone needing detox, but they also had concerns about safety after a Mind Springs employee working alone was assaulted by a patient at the Justice Center location in January.

The need for a detox program is apparent, Christensen said. Just Sunday night, police found a drunken man stumbling around without a coat with temperatures in the negative teens.

“They believe if they hadn’t taken him into custody, he would have died of exposure,” Christensen said.

Mind Springs program director Gina Toothaker said the Routt County detox program had a waiver with the state so it only needed to have one worker. She said the state changed the rules this year and now required them to have two people overseeing a detox.

In 2015, detox took care of 68 people at a cost of $125,000. Most of that cost was attributable to paying staff. The city, county and Yampa Valley Medical each contributed $23,000 annually.

Christensen said that with a second detox worker required, the cost was going to increase to $300,000.

“It just drove the cost up over the top,” Christensen said.

Christensen said he hopes another entity will be able to take over detox.

Until then, deputies at the jail, who have been trained for detox, are monitoring people brought in for detox, Wiggins said. They are paid overtime when working outside their regular shifts.

Christensen said officers are also trained. There is a list of about 25 people available to serve as a detox worker.

“We’re still working on a more long-term solution,” Christensen said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland


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