Linn County Commissioners discuss detox center

The topic of developing a detoxification center to assist people who have overdosed on drugs or who are extremely drunk in Linn County has long been a discussion between the county’s Health Department staff and local private health care providers.

On Dec. 5, Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker tackled the complicated topic at length, following up on a request by a member of the public at the previous meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

A detox center is an emergency facility – staffed with trained medical professionals – that provides emergency services to someone under the influence of intoxicants. The clients “detox,” get the drugs out of their system and then are released back into the community.

They are not required by law to seek treatment, such as becoming an outpatient through the Linn County Alcohol and Drug Department, or at Samaritan Treatment & Recovery Services (STARS) in Lebanon.

Sheriff Michelle Duncan said the Linn County Jail staff deal with detoxing individuals who come to the jail. The other local resources for detoxing for those not committing crimes are local emergency rooms.

Health Director Todd Noble said Linn County “has by far the biggest drug and alcohol program in our region.”

Board Chairman Nyquist said the city of Portland is developing a “sobering center” which will have 20 beds and an estimated annual budget of $7.5 million. For Linn County to develop such a center, funding would have to come from other service programs provided to the citizens of Linn County.

Nyquist also noted that it has long been the policy of the Board of Commissioners to expend “every nickel” the county receives from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to the Alcohol & Drug Department.

“Absent a new funding stream, where do we go with this?” Nyquist said.

He said the taxpayers of the county recognize the commissioners strongly support assisting addicts who want to overcome their addictions and lead a successful life by accessing the counseling services provided by the Alcohol & Drug Department.

Commissioner Tucker said it is important that people understand the differences between a drug treatment facility, treatment program and a detox center. They are not one in the same. A detox center comes with numerous liabilities, both medically and financially.

Due to its medical nature, it might be best to work with trained health care providers such as Samaritan Health Services, Tucker said.

Duncan said her deputies become involved when someone threatens to harm themselves or others, but after they are stabilized, they have no control over that person unless they have been charged with a crime during their episode.

Commissioner Sprenger asked County Administrative Officer Darrin Lane to speak with appropriate department and office heads and report back to the commissioners in a couple weeks about what options might be viable.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved hiring Deputy Chris Fairchild as a background investigator with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office after he retires Dec. 31.

♦ Accepted a $60,110 Homeland Security Grant to install bullet and break resistant glass/laminate at the Sheriff’s Office lobby doors and window, and a $100,000 grant to replace a radio communications shelter at the LCSO’s Cougar Rock radio communication site. The old building was constructed in the 1980s and needs to be replaced.

♦ Were informed by Juvenile Department Director Torri Lynn that there were 61 referrals in October and 192 young people in the Probation Unit; 35 are assessed as high-risk. There are 92 young people within the Community Programs Unit and the intervention specialist is working with 102 youth.

♦ Accepted a $100,000 grant from the Oregon Health Authority to be used by the Health Department to reach out and educate Linn County residents who may qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.

♦ Approved the transfer of $165,000 within the Health Fund to purchase five new vehicles to be used by Developmental Disabilities and Alcohol & Drug.

♦ Approved increasing the Law Enforcement Levy Fund by $1,487,604 into a contingency fund due to increased tax revenue, decreased tax compression and less than budgeted expenses with the Sheriff’s Office. The money affects the Sheriff’s Office, Juvenile Department and District Attorney’s Office.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer