Memorial Regional Health, Moffat County School District provide answers on treatment center
March 5, 2019
Over the past several weeks, we have been monitoring the feedback and comments about the decision to move forward with an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program. We want to thank the Craig Press Editorial Board for its comments and suggestions. To your point, knowledge counters fears. We hope this information will provide some of the answers and address many of the concerns and rumors.
First, this project is evolving. In 2016, Memorial Regional Health participated in a multi-county needs assessment. As part of one of the many recommendations from that needs assessment, the expansion of mental health and substance abuse systems were noted. Findings from the survey, conversations with leaders, and conversations with residents from different communities and across demographic groups showed substance abuse should be a top priority within the Yampa Valley. This program is in direct response to this concern.
While we are well aware of the stigma that surrounds this disease and realize fully that we will always face opposition as we battle this national epidemic, we also believe that once the community is armed with the facts about this place of healing, that everyone will embrace the program and rest assured that their safety and security will be unaffected.
It is important that we share some background information about this troubling epidemic in order to provide some context for the urgency of getting a program implemented in our community. Much like many parts of the state, Northwest Colorado has seen an incremental increase of opioid overdose deaths during the past 15 years. The Colorado Health Institute released an interactive time lapse map in November 2016 that depicts the changing rate of deaths from opioid overdose across the state between 2002 and 2014. In this graphic, all four counties in Northwest Colorado turn darker shades of red as the years pass, signifying the gradual increases of opioid-related deaths in Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties. Overall, 58 residents died of opioid overdoses across the region in 2014. We are proposing a treatment program that will incorporate medication-assisted treatment for addiction, intensive outpatient therapy, and, in time, a sober-living environment for those with a demonstrated period of sobriety.
Candidly, this program may be getting confused with other programs like CAPS or other court-ordered programs. That is not at all what this program is designed to do. We are hosting and treating those afflicted by the disease of addiction in a beautiful, welcoming, and inspiring setting where they can focus on their voluntary recovery. We are not bringing drugs to the neighborhood, the community, or the county.
The time for standing up and eliminating the shameful stigma surrounding this disease is now. I know in my heart that the compassionate residents of Craig and Moffat County are those who would encourage someone recently diagnosed with cancer to stop smoking or to help a loved one with diabetes to find a healthy treat. We ask you to help us, not directly, but indirectly, through your continued, genuine care and concern for your neighbors by recognizing that we will be helping those with this disease to heal and recover.
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To address some specific concerns provided by the Editorial Board on behalf of community members:
The historic façade of the building will remain unchanged. The idea is a non-institutional setting and a healing environment. At most, if the project moves forward, the addition an external elevator on the backside of the building may be added for ADA purposes. The changes are largely interior while not destroying the historic look and feel. For example, the winding staircase, woodwork, etc. will stay intact. We also have conceptual interior diagrams free for sharing. The drawing is attached to this article.
The program offered requires all residents to volunteer to commit to the program and articulate a genuine willingness to quit. A critical element of our treatment strategy is an environment of unconditional positive regard, and that means that, at times, we will be forced to refuse acceptance to various individuals who may pose a threat to the program in any way.
In terms of security, when the facility begins to house sober-living patients, personnel assigned to the role will monitor the facility 24x7x365. There are no current plans to add fencing, which detract from the site and the healing properties of the service.
Another concern that seems to consistently arise is the transparency of this process. Along with the greater community, Memorial Regional Health became aware of the availability of the building on Yampa Avenue in December 2017. At that Moffat County School District Board of Education meeting, the board approved the recommendation to close East Elementary School, vacate the Yampa building, and move administrative supports to the former East Elementary School. After it became clear in late 2018 that we had a viable partner to bring a treatment program to Craig, MRH contacted the district to determine if the building on Yampa was available. Dr. David Ulrich was forthcoming about the fact that a local group had initially indicated an interest in the building, but no formal plans had been presented.
On Dec. 20, 2018, members of MRH’s team and the potential partners toured the building. Later that evening, at a public meeting that was posted in accordance with applicable laws, MRH’s board heard a presentation from our potential partners. At the Jan. 17, 2019, MRH board meeting, the Board of Trustees again discussed and then approved the investment opportunity at its public meeting. On Monday, Jan. 28, MRH sent a letter to the MCSD President of the Board of Education, Dr. JoAnn Baxter, formally requesting the board approve Dr. Ulrich to enter into negotiations with the MRH. This action item appeared on the Feb. 21 MCSD Board of Education agenda, which was posted publicly on Friday, Feb. 15. To educate the board, Dr. Ulrich invited MRH to present a summary of our plans during the work session on Feb. 21, which was also posted on the 15th. The action item was approved. Once the negotiations are finalized, both MCSD and MRH commit to adhering to all laws regarding public disclosure.
We acknowledge that concern brought forward by certain members of the community and neighbors. This is a sensitive topic, one that people do not like to talk about; it makes people feel uncomfortable. While we acknowledge the concern, we feel compelled to move forward with a plan to address addiction and mental health. While we move forward to address the needs of our community, it is in conflict with the beliefs of some.
We appreciate and understand why residents have concerns and do not diminish that sentiment. We do, however, stand strong in our conviction to be part of the solution — to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve.
We offer a few additional answers to some questions we have received:
Why the building on Yampa Avenue in Craig?
We have identified the building on Yampa Avenue as the ideal location for this program. This building meets all of the criteria we need to create a safe environment. We need a location where we can incorporate a private residential area and program studios, as well as group and private counseling spaces.
What type of residents will be living Providence Recovery Services of Colorado?
Men and women over the age of 18 will be allowed to live at Providence. Backgrounds will be diverse, but all will have the common goal of recovering from the disease of addiction. Some may have alcohol issues, and some may have opioid issues. Rigorous qualifications for our privately owned and operated treatment program are in place to ensure a safe and secure experience for our residents and our community neighbors.
Will the residents detox at Providence Recovery Services of Colorado?
No. Providence facilitates the healing and recovery and process for young men who volunteer to participate in the program. While some of the residents have experienced an intervention and completed detox elsewhere, our focus is on education and guided therapy toward an awakened recovery.
Where will residents be coming from?
We will not restrict or adhere by any geographic boundary, and it is possible that some residents will come from any state. However, we know the local need is tremendous. Providence will be able to accept all patients with any insurance, including Medicaid. Additionally, because of MRH's nonprofit status, we will be eligible to apply for funding through federal programs whose funding focus is addiction and treatment programs in rural communities.
How will you know if they're using drugs at Providence?
Sobriety and clean living are critical to the organization's success. Residents and staff will be drug tested regularly. Our current program guidelines anticipate a bi-weekly testing schedule, and we may do so more frequently if ever necessitated for any reason.
What is your staffing model?
Once the sober living component of our program is open, residents will be under 24/7 supervision by trained addiction technicians and will spend time daily with their certified addiction counselors. Additionally, we have a variety of staff who will interact with residents on a daily basis.
Do you accept "hardened criminals?"
We will not be accepting violent criminal or court "forced" participation. This is a volunteer program for those who want to be here. Qualification evaluations will be an important component of individual qualification decisions. Past psychiatric evaluations will be reviewed during assessment. Our commitment to the safety of our residential community, and to our surrounding community, dictates that high-risk factors for criminal activity, homicidal, or suicidal tendencies may be disqualified from our program. If residents are discharged due to relapse or anti-social behavior, they will be placed somewhere outside of the community, and not simply released to the streets.
What will they be doing? Will they interact with the community?
The schedule will be tailored to fit the various components of the treatment program. Activities may include therapy sessions, 12-step meetings, group therapy sessions, supervised recreation excursions, and family therapy sessions. The regimented schedule of activities will not permit much time for being out in the community. We welcome and hope for an embracing neighborly community whereby our residents might offer their unique talents and skills to serve the community via service-related projects, which will be 100-percent supervised.
How does our community benefit from this?
We expect to be barely noticed. However, we do see a variety of benefits for the community. We will have a constant pipeline of potential community service workers. Program design encourages routine engagement in service to others. We expect some of those projects to come from ideas you may suggest, and we may travel to support other areas who have needs.
Andrew J. Daniels is CEO of Memorial Regional Health. Dr. Dave Ulrich is superintendent of Moffat County School District.