Alameda County Opens Model Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs

KeithCarsonmug.jpgBy Supervisor Keith Carson

On Wednesday, January 9th Alameda County opened two new exciting alcohol and drug treatment programs: the Safe House Sobering Center and the Cherry Hill Detoxification. In 2004 I was approached by a group of advocates and city leaders about the need for a detoxification facility in Alameda County. Through much research as well as collaboration with community members and stakeholders such as city governments, law enforcement and the Alcohol and Drug treatment provider community it was decided that the County would develop a detoxification and sobering program. Using Measure A healthcare funds we have constructed state of the art buildings and developed a Detoxification and Sobering Service program that makes Alameda County’s program a model in the nation. It is our hope that detoxification services will close a critical gap in our healthcare system in addition to being an efficient use of very limited funds.
The Safe House Sobering Center operated by HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County is a 24 hour/7 day per week facility. It is very sparse inside but provides a safe place to sober up where as many as 50 individuals can stay an average of four (4) to six (6) hours. The goal is to provide a medically monitored environment in which inebriates can allow the effects of chemical intoxicants to wear off and to regain their functionality; the facility will also provide a point of intervention for the chemically dependent. Cherry Hill Social Model Detoxification Program operated by Horizon Services, Inc. is a 39-bed facility and operates 24 hours a day 7 days per week. Clients will likely stay an average of 3-5 days, but individuals may stay longer if they’re awaiting a specific treatment placement. This program is a comprehensive intervention program which will include a structure of groups, accommodations for non-English speakers, 12-step groups, HIV and Hepatitis C testing and education, assessment, post-detoxification planning/placement and referral, and transportation to treatment interviews. Additionally, these new services include vans to transport individuals from the Sobering Center and the Detoxification facility to other existing services such as shelters, treatment programs, and back into their community. The combination of these two programs is a first for the County and will provide much needed services to a population that traditionally does not receive any services.
One of the greatest challenges in the treatment of individuals with substance abuse issues is recycling through treatment services. This revolving door population consists of individuals who cannot accept or maintain continuous treatment. It is widely accepted that detoxification services substantially limit this recycling pattern. Detoxification is an excellent alternative to the criminalization of these individuals. Well-run detoxification programs in other counties have positively affected the lives of individuals receiving the services as well as communities in which they are located. Detoxification facilities reduce Emergency Department (ED) visits to hospitals, and lighten the load on the criminal justice system, and by positively impacting the “revolving door” of health care services that are so costly to maintain. Current statistics reveal that more than 50% of ED admittance are for individuals who would be best served by detoxification services.
I am honored to have been involved with the establishment of these two critical treatment programs. Once again Alameda County is on the forefront of comprehensive, sensitive and competent health care services programs.