The myths and facts about drug treatment in Mesa County

By Janet Rowland and Dan Rubinstein

In the Feb. 26 edition of The Daily Sentinel, a column by Krystyn Hartman contained inaccuraties, unclear generalizations, unsupported assumptions and completely failed to provide any evidence that would support the headline, “Mesa County’s drug treatment programs don’t meet current standards.” Below we have outlined several of the most egregious implications and the facts that refute them.

Myth: The Summit View Treatment Center, operated by Mesa County’s Criminal Justice Services Division, follows national trends with a 3 percent to 7 percent recovery rate.

Fact: Since opening in June 2007, 442 clients have been admitted to Summit View and 310 successfully completed, for a 70 percent successful completion rate.

Myth: Most treatment centers with the 70 to 80 percent success rates are biophysical operations and Mesa County does not have such a center because it is not important enough to its leaders.

Fact: When Mesa County built the Summit View Treatment facility, much research went into finding a treatment modality that had evidence of being successful with meth addicts. The Matrix Model, a cognitive-behavioral treatment model, was selected because there was evidence that it was successful, and as mentioned above, after implementing that model for four and a half years, the successful completion rate at Summit View is 70 percent.

Of those who successfully completed treatment, 60 percent had no further criminal justice involvement two years after completing the program. Of those who did have additional charges, most were either traffic infractions or charges unrelated to drug usage.

It should be noted that none were Class I or Class II felony offenses, the most serious types in Colorado. When viewed through a Harm Reduction Model, Mesa County has benefited from fewer and less serious crimes being committed.

Myth: There is a widely held assumption in Mesa County that drug addiction happens only in “bad” families who aren’t worth the investment.

Fact: The impacts on families of drug addicts are significant. Since it was formed in 2005, the Mesa County Meth Task Force has acknowledged multiple times that meth addiction cuts across all socio-economic levels. Indeed most families are not prepared to deal with the issues brought on by a drug addict, especially when that drug is meth.

This is precisely why the Mesa County Meth Task Force formed Share and Care, an education and support group for family members of meth addicts. We encourage any family currently dealing with this issue to email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

Children are also significantly impacted. As part of our initial research, it was identified that a significant number of the child-protection cases in Mesa County involved meth, which is why, in 2005, the Meth Task Force worked with the Department of Human Services to develop an education and support group specifically for children from meth homes.

Over the last seven years, those statistics have been significantly reduced, and DHS continues to assess the needs of all children and provide them with individualized services to meet their needs as a result of their parent’s drug addiction.

Myth: Evidence suggests that Mesa County’s commitment to the drug crisis begins and ends with law enforcement.

Fact: District Attorney Pete Hautzinger suggested combining enforcement with treatment to deal with meth, by creating the Fast Track program. This allows the DA to have drug treatment as an option when charging criminals.

Sheriff Stan Hilkey, faced with an overcrowded jail, was in full support of using capital dollars previously planned for a new jail pod for the construction of an alternative sentencing facility which houses the in-patient treatment program.

From this partnership, the Summit View Drug Treatment Program was born.

The Meth Task Force built its entire strategic plan on a logic based on enforcement, treatment and prevention. When Mesa County established the Summit View Treatment Program, no other county in the country could be found that had invested in treatment to the point of establishing their own facility. To date, we are still unaware of such a program elsewhere. If there are others of which we are unaware, they certainly should be commended.

It is suggested that our community should come together to solve this problem, as if it is a novel idea. Mesa County has, in fact, done just that. And our efforts have been recognized nationally for dealing with meth on a communitywide basis, from a perspective that includes enforcement, prevention and treatment.

We sympathize with Hartman, who wrote she is dealing with a child who has an addiction. We hope the child will seek treatment and will emerge successful. Her frustration as a parent is not unusual and that very frustration has been the motivation for much of what we have done. We understand the struggles of connecting a family member with appropriate treatment, especially when the addicted individual may not want treatment. We wish nothing but the best for Ms. Harman’s family.

We are blessed to have a community that is willing to come together to address community issues and we encourage all interested citizens to join our effort to make a difference. http://www.methfree.mesacounty.us.

Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland and Dan Rubinstein, chief deputy district attorney, are co-chairmen of the Mesa County Meth Task Force.


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