By Kiera Morgan
Cheryl Connell director of Lincoln County Health and Human Services along with District Attorney Michelle Branum and County Commissioner Bill Hall were in attendance at the Samaritan Communities Health District Board meeting on 8/17. They were there to ask the board to consider offering 10-15 beds for alcohol and drug detox as part of the new Samaritan Hospital Medical building.
Connell stated that the Lincoln Interagency public safety coordinating council pointed out the lack of resources available to those struggling with alcohol and drug abuse since the closure of the Truman Center. Board member Dr. David Long said the amount of beds asked may be a problem and asked if the county or other non-profit might be willing to collaborate. He said they are limited in the number of beds they can have as a critical access hospital.
Cheryl said it was important to have the facility in the medical portion of the hospital as that is where it would do the most good. Connell cited the Pacific Communities health assessment showing excessive drinking and drug abuse are risk factors for many health outcomes. “This is tax payer money that is going for these new facilities, and so we are trying to ensure that the board understands that in the board’s own community health assessment the need for a detox facility came up as a very high priority and it wasn’t included in the planning of the new medical facility.”
Board member Fred Postalwaite asked if this could be set up in another area on the hospital grounds. He said the costs of the new medical facility are $500 per square foot. It was also questioned who would be expected to operate and fund the program. Board member Dr. Ralph Breitenstein said “the request has not fall on deaf ears. We would like to continue the discussion.” He invited the members of the public safety council to attend their next meeting and put the topic of the detox beds on the agenda for further discussion. “We need to find a way to do this and make it financially sound.”
Commissioner Hall said afterward that he was glad that the board was at least open to the idea. “The message has broken through that this is a serious public health and public safety issue. Given the generosity of the voters of the hospital district to build this new medical complex that we can form partnerships to bring this critically needed program to the central coast.” D.A. Michelle Branum pointed out that the hospital is dealing with these issues already.
When police officers encounter someone who is intoxicated on drugs or alcohol they have to bring them to the emergency room before they can be transported anywhere else. The Trueman Center was providing detox services for the county however due to financial reasons they closed in 2012 and the county has been without a detox center since that time.