Need For Drug Treatment Facility Growing

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If you think you can beat drug and alcohol addiction on your own, it is probably safe to say that you have never reached that crossroad.

The same could be said if you believe that jail is the best way to treat an addict.

And if you believe that refusing treatment for addicts will make them leave your town, take a look around Payson.

There is no detox center and no drug treatment facility, but the number of people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is on the rise.

Currently, Rim Guidance Center in Payson pays three full-time staffers to transport people in need of detox and drug treatment to Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff.

"We have to take them wherever we can find a bed," said Darlene Duncan, prevention and community mobilization coordinator for Rim Guidance.

If the person has been court-ordered into drug treatment, the sheriff's department must transport them.

Whether the sheriff's department does the driving or the staff of Rim Guidance does, it's the taxpayer who picks up the bill. (Money for the Rim Guidance to transport people to treatment comes from Medicaid.)

Duncan said the staff of Rim Guidance makes as many as 10 trips a week. They own three vans just for this purpose.

"It's been a need for years, and it's growing," Duncan said. "Over the past three years, we've had to increase (service) by a van a year. If we (had a local facility) we wouldn't have this issue."

In the past year, the organization helped 462 people with drug and alcohol issues.

Having a local treatment facility for these people will increase their success rate in beating whatever addiction is destroying their lives because they can be treated near their families and extended support network.

There have been several attempts over the years to build a drug treatment facility in Payson.

Those efforts have failed for two reasons -- funding and a prevailing "not in my backyard" mentality. Many will agree that Payson needs a drug rehabilitation facility, but few will want it in their neighborhood.

Currently, there is a bill before the Arizona State Senate -- House Bill 2554 -- that sets aside $12 million in the state General Fund to "stem the growth of methamphetamine and other substance abuse."

A provision in the bill funds detoxification programs in rural Arizona.

Money provided through the bill would help pay the startup costs that have been the biggest obstacle in Payson.

While the staff of Rim Guidance is hoping for the best from the Legislature, no one is holding their breath. The group has already selected a site for the facility -- a wing of the Rim Country Health and Retirement building on Longhorn Drive -- and applied for a grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services. The grant application was turned in Friday, Oct. 20, and included letters of support from Payson Regional Medical Center, the Payson Police Department and the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

Readers can show their support for this effort by contacting state senator Jake Flake by e-mail at jflake@azleg.gov or call (602) 926-5219 to voice support for House Bill 2554, or contact ADHS at (602) 542-1000 to let funders know the need is real in our community.

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