GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) When the police pick up someone who needs alcohol or drug detox, they can take them three places. The first is jail, but it's overcrowded. The second is the emergency room, but that step can take an officer off the streets for several hours. The third is the non-profit Colorado West Regional Mental Health, where officials say more funding is needed to get these people help, and to keep the community safe.
"There's very little public funding for detox services," said Tish Starbuck, RN, MSHA, FACHE, Vice President of the Mental Health Center at Colorado West Regional Mental Health Inc. in Grand Junction. Colorado West serves nearly 700 people a year, which is a costly undertaking. "We average an overall loss that we've been providing, a community benefit, of over a quarter-million dollars a year," added Starbuck. Last year, Grand Junction police officers took 183 people to the detox facility at Colorado West.
"I don't know what we'd do without that facility, they're critical to us," said John Camper, Grand Junction Chief of Police. The Mesa County jail, like many across the country, is overcrowded. "We really concentrate on just taking felons to the jail; so in many cases there isn't room for people who commit misdemeanors, much less somebody who hasn't really committed a crime; they're just intoxicated," explained Camper.
Colorado West is also designed to to keep the community safe. "We need a safe place for them to go to be evaluated, to be treated if necessary, or if nothing else, to have that intoxication wear off; so that they're not endangering other members of our community," said Theresa Coons, Grand Junction City Councilwoman.
Not all city council members agreed with the proposal. "We already contribute quite a bit through our ambulance service, we do parks and rec; we have a lot of programs that we do in the community; I think our money is better spent in doing those types of programs," argued Jim Doody, Grand Junction City Councilman.
However, officials say the money will be well spent to provide a very important public service. "It's a vital community service that provides a safe environment for people to detox from alcohol and drugs," assured Starbuck.
The City Council approved the request Monday afternoon, and will re-evaluate if the funding will be necessary in fiscal year 2014.
Colorado West serves several counties. They actually serve residents of Western Colorado in a region equaling in physical size to the state of Delaware.
In fiscal year 2012, nearly 89 percent of patients Colorado West served were Mesa County residents.
For more information on Colorado West Regional Mental Health, visit the related link below.