Sheriff: No funds for detox in Klamath County

From the Klamath Herald, February 12, 2013

The future of the BestCare detoxification center in Klamath Falls is in jeopardy.

New Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah said the project is not on the top of his priority list, and it likely would not see any contributing funds from the sheriff’s department.

Instead, Skrah said, he will focus on hiring more deputies to improve response times and lengthen patrol hours — currently the department patrols 20 hours a day — as well as improving the department’s fleet, which has vehicles that have logged more than 175,000 miles.

“I was put in this office to be a prudent steward of taxpayer dollars,” Skrah said. “I want to put deputies on the street as opposed to investing taxpayer dollars into a detox center.”

BestCare Treatment was hoping Klamath Falls, Klamath County and Sky Lakes Medical Center would provide the funding necessary to operate the facility.

Under the proposed agreement, Sky Lakes would pay $153,000 annually for the next five years, while the city and the county would each pay $76,000.

But the money for the detox center was only included in the sheriff’s budget two years ago when former sheriff Tim Evinger agreed to help fund the project. Back then, the amount was closer to $34,000, Skrah said.

When BestCare came back the next year with a request for $76,000 instead, Evinger said the sheriff’s department could no longer fund the project and wrote a letter to the Klamath County commissioners in support of the proposed facility.

Since then, funds for the detox center have not appeared in the sheriff’s budget, and Skrah said any money he receives from the county will be dedicated to improving patrols and protecting the citizens of the county.

Information provided by the Klamath Falls Police Department for 2011 indicates that 106 people were taken into protective custody for detoxification. The Klamath County Sheriff ’s Office reported 865 individuals booked into the jail for detox during the same time frame. Sky Lakes Medical Center provided detox services for 218 people from January through December 2011.

BestCare staff estimated the detox center would serve 698 individuals in its first year. The facility will provide 10 beds reserved for referrals from the city police department, the sheriff’s office and Sky Lakes Medical Center.

The facility would be in an unused wing of BestCare’s building at 2555 Main St.

“We have at times a shift covered by two deputies that covers 6,000 square miles, and people want to know why it takes so long to respond. It’s because we don’t have enough deputies,” Skrah said. “To take X number of dollars and allocate to (substance abusers) who re-offend constantly, that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m going to use any funds I get to protect lives or property.”

Asked about the detox center alleviating pressure on jail capacity, Skrah said that most alcoholics and drug addicts are responsible for domestic and child abuse, and they should be put in jail, not taken to a detox center.

“Shipping them off to the detox center isn’t a deterrent to the problem,” Skrah said. “And there should be a deterrent when it involves the health of families and children.”

Previously, detox center project leaders had assembled the necessary matching funds through loans and foundation donations to apply for a $1.5 million Community Development block grant. The grant would have funded most of the $1.8 million project and the facility was moving forward.

Now, if the county does not help fund the center, project leaders will be searching for a Plan B, said Rick Treleaven, executive director of BestCare Treatment.

The city can’t afford to make up the difference either, said Jim Hunter, Klamath Falls chief of police. Stakeholders in the detox center plan to meet with Skrah on Wednesday.

“That will leave us at status quo as using the jail as a place to take detox cases,” Hunter said. “The downside to that is there’s no treatment option. I think it would be better served if there was a place to take them.”

The idea of the detox center was brought forward to the lessen the burden on the jail and the hospital, which currently have to deal with substance abuse cases — a cumbersome solution that adds to health care and public safety costs and results in the absence of care if either facility is full, Hunter said.