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Center of Hope surpassing goals since October merger

Mar 12, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Center of Hope in Riverton has seen nothing but improvements since a recent merger, said Heath Steel, the executive vice president of operations at Volunteers of America Northern Rockies.

In October, VOA blended with the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center in Riverton. The shift in ownership brought a new name to the facility, and the merger has modified the ways the facility works with residents who are looking to overcome alcohol abuse.

Good changes

In a second-quarter report, Steel said the merger has helped people improve their lives and get the treatment they desperately need. He presented the document to the Riverton City Council during a work session Feb. 11.

"You trusted a well known treatment provider in the region to come in to acquire a local service," Steel said. "And now, what I want to be able to do is demonstrate that the team has come in and done what we committed to you for your investment in (us)."

Second-quarter statistics showed 10 residents have left the Center of Hope for residential substance abuse treatment elsewhere.

"My hope was that we could impact 5 percent of the top 75, which was 3.5 individuals," Steel said.

The facility has surpassed that 3.5-person goal only a few months into the merger.

For the first time in 13 years, the facility has a clinician, Steel said. The building also has undergone an exterior paint job, new beds have been ordered, and the bed structure has switched to seven close observation beds and 11 social detoxification beds.

The Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness grant acquired from the U.S. Department of Health also has been a new addition. The grant provides financial assistance to states so services can be provided to homeless people who may have serious mental illnesses or other disabilities or abuse problems.

Staff involvement and other agency collaboration has increased at the facility. Residents are receiving resources and education from groups like Centsible Nutrition, Indian Health Serivces grief group, White Buffalo cultural group and addiction education, and Arapahoe vocational rehabilitation, among others.

He said 22 people are now in social detoxification.

"(It's) a true clinical definition of social detox," he said. "Not a revolving 'hit the floor/be out the next day' morning they have gone through (before)."

The center also has made safety a priority and has installed new barriers and cameras and created new safety areas for ambulances and law enforcement.

Healthy report

Steel took a moment to ask the city council to celebrate the results of a report generated by a consultant through the Wyoming Department of Health.

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Outcome report showed that "general satisfaction of services" at the center is up from 69.5 percent to 76 percent.

Services "available at the time of need" increased from 83 percent to 92 percent and the center was scored as having the most improvement in every service between 2012 and 2014. Clients also had positive feedback of staff, services, and the improvement in their well-being because of programs and staff input.

A jump from 59 percent to 75 percent of clients said they can now deal better with crisis because of the center's help, and 66.7 percent of regular clients said they now spend more time with people who don't use drugs and alcohol, an increase from 44 percent.

"While the results may not always be seen in town, the impact is occurring here in the community," Steel said.

Center expansion

During the work session, Steel proposed making structural improvements at the center, but only if VOA obtained ownership of the building, which is now owned by the City of Riverton. After VOA sells property in Riverton, they intend to use the revenue from that to make changes and possibly expand the facility at 223 W. Adams Ave.

"We have some investments we'd like to make," he said. "We were willing to enter into an agreement with the city."

Under the proposal, the services at the center would go unchanged and VOA's agreement with the city would be extended, Steel said.

"We discussed with the (Riverton) police chief the necessity to design a building that would allow for both sheltering social detox and potentially some sober living," Steel told the council. "But we're reluctant to start the rehab process in a building that belongs to the city."

Council member Richard Gard asked Steel if the facility currently has enough space to expand. Steel said there seems to be room, but options have not been explored fully because the organization would like consent from the city first.

Gard added that the center is in his ward, and he has noticed significant improvement.

Steel added that the facility also would like to improve transportation availability for clients, add a nurse case manager and build a recovery center community.

The council and mayor showed initial approval of expansion and change of ownership.

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