The county appears to be on the verge — finally! — of approving a residential detox center to serve low-income clients.
That’s excellent news. Residential drug and alcohol treatment should be an option for everyone — not just for those who can easily afford it.
We commend the many private and public organizations and individuals who have been quietly working on a San Luis Obispo detox facility, taking it to a stage that’s been aptly described as “the beginning of a dream come true.”
But before we get too carried a way, a word of caution: There are funding questions that must be answered before this dream becomes a reality.
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Here’s the financial picture: There should be no problem raising the approximately $800,000 needed to build a small, stand-alone detox center at 40 Prado Road — the same site where the new Homeless Services Center is going up.
It’s the source of the $1.2 million per year needed to run the facility that isn’t quite so set.
That’s a sticking point for the two liberal members of the Board of Supervisors, Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill.
They supported the project when it was presented to the board last week, but they also focused on what it could cost the county if Medi-Cal reimbursements, grants and other funding sources don’t completely cover the facility’s operational costs.
That’s a switch; normally, the two liberal supervisors are champions of social services. In the past, Hill has even chastised conservative members of the board for “putting potholes over people.”
Well, Supervisor Hill, here’s an opportunity to put a priority on people.
We urge the entire board to take advantage of it. Too often, we’ve seen projects get needlessly bogged down in politics, leading to costly delays.
That doesn’t mean the board should sign a blank check or blindly enter into an agreement.
It does mean instructing county staff to find a way to make this happen — even if that involves cutting costs in another area.
A local detox facility isn’t a luxury item; the county is legally obligated to provide residential detox treatment within the next three years. If it doesn’t have a local facility within that time, it will have to contract to send people out of county.
Why do that when we have an opportunity to provide the service right here?
And instead of focusing just on costs, let’s look at the other side of the equation: the savings our county would realize.
Here’s what the National Institute on Drug Abuse has to say on the subject: “According to several conservative estimates, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. When savings related to healthcare are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.”
No wonder law enforcement is one of the biggest backers of the project.
As Sheriff Ian Parkinson told the Board of Supervisors, there’s not a police chief or a law enforcement agency in the county that’s not in favor of the plan.
Here are some key elements of the proposal:
▪ The center will be approximately 2,880 square feet and will accommodate up to 10 clients. Ideally there would be room to expand, but due to size of the lot and other building constraints, that won’t be possible, according to project consultant Joel Diringer.
There is one big advantage of the 40 Prado location: Because it’s already been approved for the Homeless Services Center, the approval process will be easier. Also, it shouldn’t generate the neighborhood opposition that it could encounter at a different location.
▪ The building will cost approximately $730,000 to $800,000; private philanthropists are willing to donate funds, but they want assurances that there’s support for its operation.
▪ Unlike some of the sober living facilities on the Central Coast — including the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria — this will be a medical detox facility; estimated stays will be six to eight days for medical withdrawal, and up to 30 days in residential treatment.
▪ The center will accept men and women over 18.
▪ The nonprofit agency CAPSLO is willing to build the center, but it doesn’t want to operate it. That’s where the county comes in; the facility would come under the county’s umbrella, though it would likely be run by a private contractor.
A detox center is something many in the community — including law enforcement, medical and mental health care providers, homeless advocates, the county grand jury and The Tribune Editorial Board — have been urging for years.
We can’t stop pushing now.
Let the Board of Supervisors know that we’re looking to them to turn the dream of a detox center into a reality.