Letter to Editor - Regional Detox Proposal

Nov. 13, 2018

Steve Stone, Director
Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County

Ashland Times-Gazette: Letter to the Editor

It is well known and established that our nation, state and community are in the throes of an opiate/heroin addiction epidemic. We are working diligently and collaboratively with our partners to provide access to treatment and support services to those in need. Sometimes it is necessary to refer residents to programs outside the county when the services needed are not available in Ashland. This is most common for withdrawal management services, commonly known as detox.

Not everyone who has an opiate/heroin addiction requires or is referred to detox. In some cases people may be treated on an outpatient basis with the assistance of medication to support treatment. People who are referred to detox are properly assessed by qualified addiction professionals and determined to be good candidates for that level of care. It is important that the agency providing the assessment remain actively involved before, during and after the person is referred for detox and that they are transferred back to the agency for continued treatment immediately following detox.

The state recently allocated funds to increase the capacity of detox services for people experiencing addiction. In response to these new funds, a proposal was developed by the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board in collaboration with Catalyst Life Services (Mansfield) for a regional withdrawal management center. A suitable facility for the program was not found in Richland County. However, an excellent facility was identified at the Hospice building on Dauch Dr. in Ashland which was previously occupied by the hospice in-patient program.

When the idea for a regional detox program located in Ashland County was presented to local law enforcement and other community leaders it was met with strong opposition. MHRB Director Steve Stone and ACCADA Director Dennis Dyer met with Judge Good, Chief Marcelli, Prosecutor Tunnell and Sheriff Risner to discuss their concerns. They stated that, because most of the people referred to the program would come from outside the county and that the program would not be locally controlled, it may compromise community safety.

Many residents began to hear about the proposed program and also began to raise questions about it. They expressed concern that Hospice did not inform them about the proposed program and did not seek their comments or input.
Consequently, in response to these concerns MHRB withdrew its support for the location but remains committed to seeking ways to increase the accessibility of detox and other services for our residents. Should the community concerns be satisfied by the agencies proposing to establish the program we would of course want to revisit the viability of the project.

Our experience in the treatment community is that detox programs like the one being proposed do not present significant risks to the community and provide essential medical care to people addicted to opiates/heroin. All detox programs are considered regional in nature, as they will accept referrals for individuals from outside the county where they are located. I am not aware of any detox program that exclusively serves a specific county. These programs are generally well managed, staffed by medical and addiction professionals and are properly supervised.

Currently, ACCADA works in collaboration with MHRB to provide access to detox services in Stark, Ashtabula and other communities where the service is currently available. While having access to a local detox program would benefit Ashland residents who need this level of care, Ashland County does not have a large enough need to support a program like this exclusively or primarily for Ashland County residents.

We will continue to ensure that the needs of Ashland County residents are met to the best of our ability and will continue to seek to balance the needs of individuals struggling with addiction with the concerns of our community leaders and residents.

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