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CROW WING COUNTY BOARD: Detox concerns aired

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News Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

With the closing of the detox center in Brainerd, Crow Wing County commissioners said there still is confusion and surprise surrounding it. 

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Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said the public still doesn’t know the background as to why detox is gone. Beth Wilms, community services director, noted the Dispatch’s June 9 article on the subject. 

Wilms said Crow Wing County is mandated to provide the service and contracted with a vendor for that purpose. Dakota County Receiving Center, based in Hastings, had the contract since 1999 and used the county-owned building at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center off Highway 18. 

Wilms said there are only two counties in the state that provide the services themselves and one is looking to get out. Detox requires licensing and strict medical criteria be met, such as 24-hour access to a doctor and nurse, Wilms said. 

The county purchased the BRHSC building from the state for $1 in 1999. In April 2010, faced with the potential of spending $1 million to provide heat and electricity to the building as the state planned to make changes at the complex, the county board voted to convey the former jail annex back to the state as of Sept. 1, 2010. 

The county worked with the detox center provider to get an extension at the BRHSC, giving them more time to find an alternate location. The new move out date was June 1. Wilms said the county was left with the impression an alternative site was being sought. 

Wilms learned in May Dakota County Receiving Center had not found a site matching its needs. The news came as a surprise, Wilms said, adding they would have sought proposals for a new vendor earlier had they known Dakota County wasn’t going to fulfill the contract here. 

The contract was terminated but later reinstated in the interim. Dakota County Receiving is charging $97 per round-trip to take detox admissions to its Hastings facility when there is room.  

Sheriff Todd Dahl said Wilms was being politically correct and said the issue was frustrating. Dahl said the news was dumped on the county in the 23rd hour that Dakota County Receiving wouldn’t be providing the service any longer. Dahl said the frustration came in not being kept in the loop by the service provider and he holds people accountable for lack of communication to county officials.

Detox services are funded entirely by county tax dollars. Those who use detox services are billed in an effort to recapture the costs. The county board asked for more information on what percentage is paid back. 

The county’s daily rate for detox is $302 with the $97 transport fee. 

Nystrom said people who have talked to her were concerned about the past when the county was without detox services here for a time and had to transport people to Nevis, about a three-hour trip. Wilms said Nevis rates, at a non-secure facility, are comparable to the Hastings facility, which is secured. 

When the board asked how to quantify the costs of transporting by deputies, Capt. Jerry Negen said pulling deputies off the road for the transport is spending about $40 an hour. 

Dahl said transports may be half a dozen to one a week. How long the individual stays in detox varies.  Those transported to detox are those who don’t have an outstanding warrant, are not combative and the deputy or law enforcement officer determines the individual should be taken to detox overnight for their personal safety. Intoxicated individuals who are arrested are taken to the Crow Wing County Jail and detoxification services offered there. 

In 2009, Wilms reported the county averaged 1,212 days of use and sent 485 people to detox during a 10-month period. In 2008, the people sent to detox from Crow Wing County numbered more than 1,000. Wilms said numbers were requested but not provided for 2010. Other counties used the facility as well and are finding their own alternative sites, Dahl said. 

Nystrom said she’d like information on the annual count of individuals, average stay and cost to taxpayers. Staff is expected to gather the information for the board. Wilms said Mille Lacs County, for example, spent $250,000 on detox last year. 

“We do want detoxification in Crow Wing County. We want it in Brainerd. I don’t want there to be a misperception out there that we are happy that this service is gone,” Wilms said. “We are very, very upset this service to us is gone and we are very anxious to have this service back in Crow Wing County.”

Negen said the Department of Corrections building inspector was at the jail and the DOC will work with the county regarding the potential to use one of the vacant jail pods for detox. One potential vendor looked at the jail space but also has an alternative site available, Wilms said. 

Board Chairman Paul Thiede said it’s not what the jail is designed for and he hopes it is a temporary fix because the jail population can’t be expected to say low forever. 

Commissioner Phil Trusty agreed, saying he didn’t want to be in the same position two years from now. 

Three vendors who are interested and proposals are due back to the county on July 1 with the hope to have a new vendor in place this fall. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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