Winslow Task Force studies variety of treatment options<br>
WINSLOW — A subcommittee of the Intoxicated Street People Task Force dedicated to examination of treatment options delivered its report at the July 6 regular meeting of that body held at Winslow Fire Department.
According to Ursula Baker, director of Winslow Guidance Associates, recommendations presented would utilize local resources already available, rather than “re-inventing the wheel.” These resources include Winslow Guidance Associates (WGA), Winslow Indian Health Care Center (WIHCC) and the Navajo Department of Behavioral Health Services (NDBHS).
Representing Sonora Behavioral Health, Siamak Khadjenoury has visited Winslow on several occasions, Baker said. Further, Khadjenoury has been active in treatment programs on the Navajo reservation, and Sonora Behavioral Health has established treatment centers in the southern part of the state.
There are numerous pieces to the treatment option proposal—including in-depth community education of alcoholism and drug addiction, an active community-outreach person, a shelter where meals would be provided to participants and a center that would allow participants to begin the day in a drug and alcohol free environment. WGA is already planning such a center within their organization to be called Coffee House. Intensive outpatient rehab programs, aftercare programs and counseling support groups would be coordinated to assist participants after treatment. During the duration of their treatment, participants would return to the shelter each night.
According to the task force, a detox center is an important part of the proposal, allowing for social and medical detoxification for individuals acutely intoxicated. This process usually takes three to five days.
The subcommittee is hopeful that reimbursement for services would be primarily collected from ACCCHS with contributions from the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribes, as well as from WIHCC and NDBHS.
Sonora Behavioral Health, located in Tucson, is essential to the proposal, serving to plan and implement a detoxification program and center. Given its previous and extensive experience with chemical addiction, members of the task force have expressed hope that this organization will come to Winslow.
Originally, Baker said, Agape House was to serve as a men’s shelter, and participation by Sonora Behavioral Health would complement this vision.
Police Chief Stephen Garnett, who in his private life serves as a board member for Agape House, said that the men’s shelter was still a viable plan, and included a vision of 16 to 24 beds in the initial phase, though this would be further down the road. Garnett pointed out that he was representing the Police Department, and therefore could offer little else on this topic.
“As the Mayor pointed out, we need to identify a place for Agape House,” Garnett said.
Chairman Dennis McFarland queried where the Agape House project would stand should the Sonora Behavior Health come forward.
There are differences, Baker pointed out, in that Agape House would be a faith-based institution. Further, “medical detoxification takes more resources—and will be the biggest stretch in the plan.”
Another resource, not mentioned in the proposal, could be Alice’s Place. The focus of this organization is domestic violence, Baker said.
“But they may be able to offer temporary safe shelter for homeless victims,” Baker said. “Alice’s Place has a director now, Trudell Wright, who started in May. The organization offers temporary safe shelter and transportation to established shelters elsewhere.”
On his part, Garnett assured guest Merlee Arviso that individuals found in an intoxicated state rendering them at risk of severe health problems or death by exposure would be taken to a hospital, or have an ambulance summoned on their behalf.
“I can’t take that risk,” Garnett said. “We don’t have the expertise to determine whether an individual is having a medical emergency.”
Garnett spoke favorably of the legal panel discussion held on June 15, and asked if there was anything the public would like to see his department handling differently.
McFarland responded that he sincerely believed that the police department was doing everything the law allowed it to do, and doing it well.
Dr. Frank Armao said that he had witnessed situations where intoxicated people were creating a hassle, and police officers defused these incidents, getting [the intoxicated persons] away from the scene.
“I think you’ve done your job smartly by not creating a bigger situation. I don’t know what more you could do,” said Armao.
Armao asked about the option of putting intoxicated people in protective custody, and Garnett replied that this is not an option in Winslow.
“People tend to compare us to Gallup,” Garnett said. “The City of Gallup has a law where no one can be intoxicated in public. We don’t have that luxury here in Winslow, or in the state of Arizona.”
In Winslow, Garnett said, police had to make sure that a person’s constitutional rights are not violated.
Although there are residents of Winslow who look to the Police Department to provide a solution to the problem, Garnett said, in most cases people who have summoned the police do not want to be involved further by signing a complaint.
“An officer cannot testify to something if he didn’t see it. All he can do is testify to what he has been told,” Garnett said.
“I am very proud of the work my officers are doing,” Garnett said. “I think that they show the community that they do care. If you talk to any one of them, they will tell you that they have a pretty good relationship with the people on the street. In most cases, my officers know each individual by name.”
The next Intoxicated Street People Task Force meeting will take place on July 20 at 7 p.m. at the Fire Station, located at 215 Taylor Ave. in Winslow.