Minds Willing but Budgets Weak 

Sixteen New Detox Beds Will Go Unused

JUST THROUGH the doors of Hooper Detox's new location is a reception area where 40 people are sitting, waiting, at 7:30 am on Wednesday, March 24.

Steve Mattsson, Hooper's manager, refers to the waiting people as "self-presenters." They are hoping to voluntarily admit themselves into the medical detoxification program, an inpatient program where people suffering from alcoholism stay anywhere from three days to a week to detox the alcohol out of their bodies, receive medical and counseling services, and move on to a longer-term treatment program.

That, at least, is the hope.

"We'll take about nine today," Mattsson said, looking out at the reception area—it is typical to turn away 30 to 40 people each day.

The detox program moved from its old location on NE MLK to the first floor of Central City Concern's new Madrona Studios, a 176-unit affordable housing building near the Rose Quarter, on March 15.

The number of beds has increased from 54 to 70. There are separate dormitories for men and women, allowing the program, for the first time, to admit couples. Mattsson says Hooper's inability to do so in the past, when the program primarily housed men, relegating female clients to a "flux" area, was "tragic."

Despite the expansion of capacity, Mattsson says the program will continue to admit only 54 people for the foreseeable future.

Central City Concern has to hire additional staff in order to meet state guidelines on staff-to-patient ratios. But, Mattsson says, they currently do not have the ongoing money to hire anyone.

Ed Blackburn, Central City Concern's executive director, says it would cost between $600,000 and $700,000 a year to pay for additional staff. They are currently trying to contract the beds out to other organizations providing alcohol and drug treatment services. Some, he says, have already expressed interest.

"I'm hopeful that we'll have something happening in the next few months," Blackburn says.

President Barack Obama's recently passed health care reform bill may also be able to help pay for the beds through the expansion of Medicaid for people who are currently uninsured, says Blackburn.

Once staff is hired, Mattsson predicts more challenges in the future. The additional 16 patients mean counselors will be harder pressed to find slots in treatment programs that are already hard to come by. "Resources are scant," he says.

Mattsson says it's undeniable that people unable to enter a long-term treatment program return to drinking. That, he says, dwells frequently on the minds of counselors. "[But] there's nothing wrong with hard work," he says, smiling.

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