Detox, drug treatment in jeopardy

Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center, which has been in and out of financial trouble over the past several years, may consider closing its Grand Junction-based detoxification center and substance-abuse-treatment program for women if Mesa County follows through on plans to cut funding to the agency next year.

The county has notified Glenwood Springs-based Colorado West, which operates a number of facilities and programs in Grand Junction, it intends in 2012 to reduce its allocation for general operations in Mesa County from $362,020 to $332,333 and its allocation for the Women’s Recovery Center from $300,000 to $150,000.

“Bottom line is that if the county does decrease funding as is currently suggested, our (board of directors) will need to re-evaluate continuing to operate detox at such a large loss and will need to evaluate continued operations of WRC,” Colorado West Regional Director Audra Stock wrote in an email last month to county Criminal Justice Services Director Dennis Berry.

Colorado West Chief Executive Officer Sharon Raggio emphasized no decision has been made regarding the future of the detox center and the Women’s Recovery Center, and such a decision would be made by the nonprofit corporation’s board of directors. But the shuttering of one or both facilities would potentially have far-reaching impacts on people who need a short-term place to sober up or longer-term assistance with substance abuse, as well as on the agencies that may have to fill the gap.

The 16-bed detoxification center is a one- to five-day program to help clients withdraw from drugs or alcohol and is one of several facilities Colorado West operates at its 515 28 3/4 Road campus. The 23-bed Women’s Recovery Center at 2800 Riverside Parkway opened a year ago and serves women and mothers with infants.

Raggio told commissioners earlier this month the board of directors mandated that its five detox centers operate in the black. Three currently are meeting that mandate, and a fourth no longer will be losing money by next month, she said. That leaves the Grand Junction center, which Stock indicated is losing more than $100,000 annually.

Officials say part of the reason the detox center is operating in the red is an increasing number of Colorado West patients aren’t paying for services. More than 40 percent of the 3,851 people served by the agency’s Grand Junction outpatient clinic between July 2010 and June of this year were uninsured, according to Stock.

In her email, Stock wrote that the board of directors has been willing to continue short-term subsidization of the Grand Junction detox center but based that willingness on the assumption Mesa County funding would remain flat.

Meanwhile, with the urging of the board, other Colorado West partners increased their contribution to Colorado West’s hospital this year — St. Mary’s Hospital by $200,000 and Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center by $115,000.

Raggio said Mesa County has been a strong proponent of Colorado West over the years, and she understands the commissioners’ need to balance the county’s budget. At the same time, she said, any reduction in funding from the county would contradict Colorado West’s emphasis on keeping detox centers whole.

“The issue is less about money and more about alignment with the board of directors’ current direction and meeting community needs,” Raggio said.

Commissioner Janet Rowland said she was surprised that Raggio met with the board to protest a 5 percent cut, especially when the county is trimming higher percentage amounts from its own departments’ budgets. She said the county has provided more than $2 million in capital and operating money to Colorado West since 2005.

She noted Colorado West can divvy up the $362,020 from the county among its programs any way it chooses, asserting that the detox center closing down if it loses $29,000 in county funding is “incomprehensible.”

“If they pull this, it would be a long time before I’d consider doing any other partnership with Colorado West,” Rowland said during the meeting with Raggio.

It’s unclear what remedies local government leaders might pursue if the detox center closes. The county jail has a detox area for inmates, but officials say it’s not a viable option for people who aren’t accused of committing a crime.

Rowland suggested the county consider using money otherwise funneled to Colorado West and partner with the city of Grand Junction to open a detox facility.

Colorado West leaders aren’t sure what will happen with the detox center, but they seem more certain that the county’s proposal to halve its funding for the Women’s Recovery Center will result in its closure.

“That’s not a cut that is sustainable. It’s just not,” Raggio said.

The Women’s Recovery Center, patterned after the county’s Summit View treatment program, has served 83 female county residents this year, including 51 mothers, according to Raggio.

Colorado West had hoped to expand the program soon to permit women with toddlers but now may have to scrap it altogether.

Should that happen, women struggling with drug addiction may end up in community corrections or jail.

The Colorado West Psychiatric Hospital opened in 2005 but ran into financial problems within a couple of years.

In 2009, hospital administrators received assistance negotiating the bank-held $10 million deed of trust on the facility, knocking more than $3 million off the amount owed by the hospital.

That same year, the county helped Colorado West obtain a $900,000 grant that allowed the county to purchase a building on the hospital’s campus and lease it back to the hospital.


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