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Arapahoe House

Community steps up to save detox facility

Jefferson Center to take over services offered by Arapahoe House


There is a need in the community to have a detox facility, and because of community support, the service will continue.

On June 27, the Jefferson Center for Mental Health will take over detox facility duties from Arapahoe House at the detox facility at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd. in Wheat Ridge.

The Jefferson Center is a not-for-profit organization that serves Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties residents with emotional problems and/or serious mental illnesses. The organization will rename the facility The Crisis and Recovery Center, with a vision to provide a one-stop shop for any behavioral health crisis, said Dr. Harriet Hall, CEO for the Jefferson Center for Mental Health.

“The community has rallied marvelously,” Hall said. “It is clear that there is a tremendous need and will to keep the services going.”

Community support for keeping the detox facility open was overwhelming, she said, and added that Jefferson Center would not be facing the transition alone.

Arapahoe House, a Colorado-based provider of substance abuse treatment, said it was losing money on its detox facilities and announced in December it would close its three detox facilities within the first six months of this year.

The reason for the closures, said Arapahoe House’s CEO Mike Butler, is to focus the organization’s revenue and resources on ongoing treatment, rather than the short-term fix of providing a place for people to sober up.

“The demand for treatment in Colorado is so great, we want to respond to it,” Butler said. “Our mission is to help individuals and families break the cycle of addiction. That is a massive undertaking.”

Before the closures, Arapahoe House had 10 locations throughout the Denver-metro area. The three detox facilities, located in Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties, are the only ones affected by the closures. The organization’s other locations — the rehabilitation centers that offer services for treatment from alcohol and substance use disorders through outpatient and residential care — will remain open.

In 2016, Arapahoe House treated about 15,000 people, Butler said. However, only about 5,000 of them were seeking treatment, meaning the remaining 10,000 were utilizing only the detox facilities.

“All we were doing was sobering people up, then putting them back on the streets,” Butler said. “It has grown to be a public safety (effort). Public safety is not treatment.”

By keeping the detox facilities in operation, Butler said Arapahoe House was losing about $2 million annually — money that could be better utilized as a response to the need for treatment. Being a nonprofit, the resources were just not there to keep both treatment and detox in operation. He said Arapahoe House’s funding struggles have been most prevalent in the last five years.

People seeking treatment had to be turned away every day, Butler said. “And those are the people who are ready to stop using.”

Needed replacements

On March 30, Community Reach Center, a mental health services provider for Adams County and north metro Denver, took over the operations of the Commerce City detox location. Aurora Mental Health Center, a nonprofit community mental health organization, will assume operations of the Aurora detox location on May 14.

In Jeffco, the transition took a bit longer.

To help Araphahoe House continue to operate until the June switch-over date, the county and Jeffco municipalities have agreed to provide $259,000 in funding, split up by population.

At an April 24 Lakewood City Council meeting, councilors passed a request to provide their city’s portion of the bill — $60,840 — to keep the detox facility open by a 11-0 vote.

Lakewood Police Chief Dan McCasky estimated that the Wheat Ridge detox facility alone admits about 900 people per year, and it is a tremendous need for the Lakewood community.

After the transition to the Jefferson Center, the Jeffco facility will still receive the majority of its funding from the state, just as it had under Arapahoe House management, Hall said. It will cost the Jefferson Center about $2.7 million total, annually, to operate the facility. Approximately half of that will come from the state. The Jefferson Center expects about a half million dollars to be funded through an intergovernmental agreement among the county and major Jeffco cities — Golden, Wheat Ridge, Westminster, Lakewood, Edgewater and Arvada. The hope is to also have smaller municipalities, such as Lakeside and Mountain View, and Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, provide additional support, eventually, Hall said.

“Arapahoe House is the only detox facility we have around. ERs don’t take these people, and we don’t want to take people to jail just for being drunk,” said Rev. James Fry, founder of Mean Street Ministry, a nonprofit Christian organization headquartered in Lakewood that serves the working poor along Colfax Avenue. “If not for these kinds of facilities, we can’t do much else with people who show up at our facilities drunk than send them to a park or somewhere to sober up. We need detox facilities to take them to.”

The need for withdrawal management services, known commonly as detox, is great, Hall said. They help ensure the health and safety for the individual in need of service, as well as keep them off the streets, thus providing a safety precaution for the entire community. In addition, Hall said, treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders are expensive and the disorder often leads to other costly healthcare needs.

A person’s experience with detox is often a first step for the person’s desire to seek ongoing treatment, Hall said.

“This service will continue,” she said. “We’re here for the community. It’s a part of everything we do.”


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