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Our View: Time for local inpatient facility

It’s a common, heart-wrenching dilemma. Southwest residents are forced to look far away for inpatient substance use treatment. Stories of locals –Jessica Newby, Kelly DiGiacomo, Tate Reaves, Alexys Vidunas – reported in The Durango Herald in early May, bring home and make personal their experiences in overcoming barriers before they could even climb that painful, difficult mountain toward recovery.

Each obstacle was another valid reason to skip out-of-town intensive care and just try to get by. The anxiety of moving for at least 45 days, the fear of social isolation and leaving behind children, pets, jobs and belongings can all be too much. Clearly, the process of getting clean and healthy is much easier if patients wouldn’t have to leave the Southwest.

It’s time for a local residential treatment facility.

We hope Health Management Associates’ feasibility study reveals that Robert E. DeNier Youth Services Center is a viable location, despite the significant renovations required.

If not the DeNier Center, another place right here in our community.

La Plata County allocated $150,000 to the SouthWest Opioid Response District in 2021 to fund an in-depth look at what’s needed and how it could be realized. On behalf of SWORD, which includes La Plata, San Juan, Dolores, Archuleta and Montezuma counties, La Plata County received a $1.8 million appropriation in the federal budget in December to use the building to address addiction. Also, $5 million is set aside in the 2023 county capital improvements fund for the building.

SWORD will administer funding from settlements with opioid manufacturers. It will receive a projected $4,237,407 over 18 years.

This real money is a great start.

Of course, inpatient treatment isn’t for everyone. We need comprehensive resources to include sober living housing, harm reduction programs, methadone clinics and serious continued support after any stay in rehab.

But we can no longer do without an open door into a local residential facility, into new lives for community members suffering with addictions.

We commend the parties involved in working diligently toward this goal. This vision for local, robust treatment has to be collectively important. It sure is to us.

Each person interviewed in the Herald offered insight into the challenges of seeking treatment. Newby finally reached a facility in Grand Junction in 2010, then had to leave because her infant son developed serious medical problems. Completely understandable.

Depending on patients and their situations, being in town could make it easier to manage what’s going on just outside a facility. An example is a day pass, which each rehab facility views differently. Sometimes a day pass is allowed for patients to take care of essential responsibilities.

A local facility could support some parents in nurturing children, while mom or dad is receiving care. Sure, parents would be limited until completing programs. But imagine another level of backup, for a mom to hold her baby close, and see and feel a better future, right there in her arms, even if for a short time. A dose of love and fortitude while detoxing.

Everyone interviewed had different drugs of choice. The poison that is fentanyl continues to drive the overdose epidemic. Tuesday was National Fentanyl Awareness Day, which aims to amplify nationwide efforts to increase awareness and decrease demand for fentanyl. In La Plata County in 2022 alone, 22 people died from drug or alcohol overdoses. That’s 22 people too many.

Having medical and social support, and wraparound services nearby along with construction of a brick-and-mortar facility is what’s needed now. We can normalize symptoms of addiction and address them right here, rather than sending away community members.

A local inpatient facility means a shorter journey toward health.

We can do this. It’s time.