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Budget cuts eliminate long-term residential treatment program

POSTED July 12, 2011 10:11 p.m.

Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has ceased long-term residential drug and alcohol treatment programs, replacing the program with more cost-efficient intensive short-term stays.

The change comes as part of a drastic reshaping of BHRS’s mission, driven by sharply declining funding. Since just a year ago, the program has lost nearly one-third of its funding, tallying more than $900,000.

“We said, ‘How are we going to deal with this huge reduction in funding for this very valuable resource to the community?’” said Adrian Carroll, associate director of BHRS.

The question led to a six-month planning process, where BHRS invited partners and stakeholders from across the county to draft a lower-cost schedule of services for BHRS. Many county residents with an interest in drug and alcohol treatment attended the meetings, Carroll said, where budgets and solutions were discussed in depth.

From that planning process, a series of recommendations emerged.

“What they said to us was that our providing a residential drug and alcohol program was very good, very effective, very valuable, but it was also very expensive,” Carroll said.

Instead of spending all that money on long-term housing, the group posited, perhaps the county could focus on intensive, short-term treatment. The nonprofit community could then step in with clean and sober housing once addicts were on the right track, at less cost than the county could manage.

Previously, the Stanislaus Recovery Center had 72 beds for drug and alcohol treatment. Twenty of those were reserved for individuals with both mental health disorders and substance issues, while the remainder were for those with drug and alcohol addictions.

The new plan would see the number of beds for co-occurring mental and substance issues more than double to 42, but just 10 beds would be reserved for individuals only seeking drug and alcohol treatment.

BHRS hopes to get better usage out of those beds by offering shorter, seven to 10 day stays rather than extended housing. The hope is to get people off whatever substance they are abusing, and help them become stable enough to enter clean and sober housing in that limited time. For the unemployed and down and out, BHRS will begin offering funding to help those individuals afford private clean and sober housing.

“It’s a limited amount, so we won’t be able to help everyone, but we’ll try to help those who really need it,” Carroll said.

Those currently undergoing long-term drug and alcohol treatment will be allowed to complete their full 30-day stay. The short-term treatment program and reduction in number of beds will only apply to new applicants.

The savings will allow BHRS to offer new services, including employing a liaison between BHRS and the community. That staff member will be tasked with developing community resources, self-help groups, and linking residents to treatment.

The Stanislaus Recovery Center will also expand its day treatment service for drug and alcohol addicts, offering Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. classes. Carroll said the expanded hours would complement private clean and sober housing, giving addicts a place to come during the day for treatment.

It remains to be seen if the new program will work better than the old, which Carroll noted was very successful. But with declining funding, BHRS had little choice but to implement the changes.

“When the money’s not there, you just have to say, ‘How can we get the most for what we do have?’” Carroll said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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