Commissioners study detox plan

Center could save money spent on fighting problems

— Investing dollars in drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs could save the county money that is otherwise spent to fight the effects of drugs and alcohol on society, Routt County commissioners said Monday.

Commissioners looked at the possibility of creating a detoxification center to handle the growing number of alcohol and drug abuse cases in Routt County.

"It makes sense to do it," Commissioner Dan Ellison said.

A detoxification center shared by Routt and Moffat counties would eventually pay for itself, said Tom Gangel, program director for Steamboat Mental Health.

"It sounds expensive," he said.

The county would save more money by investing in treatment programs than shouldering the costs of crime and dependence on publicly funded programs that result from drug and alcohol abuse, he said.

The possibility of a detoxification center recently found an audience in Routt County.

Several local entities in the county, as well as neighboring counties, have joined in discussions on bringing a detoxification center to the area, Ellison said.

"We're all been sitting around the table, talking about this issue," he said.

Routt County now boasts a larger population of people who warrant drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs than in the past when fewer people lived in the county, Commissioner Doug Monger said.

"We are getting in the numbers where we can fund something like this," he said.

But the problem lies in finding the money to back the idea.

Detoxification centers in Northwest Colorado share a small amount of state funding.

If Routt County and neighboring counties decided to jointly pursue a detoxification center, they would need to dip into funds already earmarked for centers in Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction and Gunnison.

A detoxification center would bridge the gap that currently exists between entities that deal with people who experience abuse or dependence problems.

Law enforcement views drug and alcohol abuse as a medical problem, while the medical community views it as a law enforcement problem, Ellison said.

"There's got to be some way that we can come together and deal with this," he said.

Gangel said he would like to see a change in public perception about drug and alcohol abuse.

Abuse and dependence problems can be treated medically, just as a broken arm or leg would, he said.

"What we're trying to get out, is that it's treatable," he said.

The commissioners passed a resolution two weeks ago proclaiming May 2002 as Mental Health Awareness month in Routt County.

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