City council members meet with crisis center board following critical comments

Aug 30, 2012 By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

The Riverton Abate Substance Abuse Project, which is doing business as the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center invited Riverton City Council members to a recent meeting after some council members criticized the way the center was handling its finances.

Alcohol crisis center director Lisa Amos said several council members, including Lars Baker, Richard Gard and Eric Heiser, met with her earlier as well.

"We thought it was a good meeting, and we were able to clear some things up that ended up being matters of miscommunication," Amos said. "We are thankful for the council's willingness to work with us in trying to understand how things are run."

Councilman Lars Baker asked about the center's mission statement.

"It seems to me that if the mission for the center was clear, it would be easier to measure success," Baker said. "We talk about the crisis center not addressing the problem, and I'm not really sure what the problem is. I think if we had some clearer purpose for the alcohol crisis center, then we would be able to do a better job of evaluating."

Amos said the board meets annually at a retreat to discuss the mission. She said the mission is to provide a safe, social setting for 'detox' and to encourage clients to seek treatment.

"Detox is different for a lot of people," Amos said. "Full detox can be one to three days or two to three weeks, depending on the person. Once a person blows a zero into a breathalyzer to determine blood alcohol content, then they can leave."

Julie Freese, the board secretary for the crisis center, said the center focuses on getting people sober enough to talk about treatment, but many leave before hearing the options.

Crisis center board member Helen Warpness said the center is not a lockdown unit, and people are free to come and go as they please.

Freese said that was a complaint from people in the community -- that people go to the center for a free meal and a warm place to sleep and then leave the next day.

Amos said meals are only given to those who blow a zero in the breathalyzer.

"I think that is a common misconception a lot of people have about the center," Amos said. "No one gets anything until they can blow a zero."

Warpness said she doesn't think the community as a whole understands that the center is a detox facility.

"We are a detox center, a safe place for people to come and get sober," Warpness said. "They will probably walk out the front door and get drunk again. I think the community wants us to be more than a detox center."

City administrator Steven Weaver said he thought that people misunderstanding the purpose of the crisis center was part of the problem.

"When I think of detox, I think of detoxifying the body of alcohol," Weaver said. "In my mind I associated it with a 30-day treatment facility where people are trying to get the alcohol out of their system. I have really tried to steer clear of referring to it as detox center, because it is more of a crisis center."

Amos said the center is dealing with the crisis that the person is in at that current moment.

"We encourage detox and treatment, but we are a crisis facility," Amos said.

Councilman Todd Smith agreed with Weaver that a common misperception was the definition of detox.

"I believe the public perception is a 30-day treatment center type of thing," Smith said. "I think to improve public perception is to avoid using the term detox. It is a not a treatment or a program type of thing. Terms mean things to people."

Warpness said there will always be intoxicated people among the community.

"I don't think this is a problem that can be solved. It is a problem that can be managed," she said.

Amos said the board would sit down and be more specific with the crisis center's mission statement and establish goals to improve public perception.

Crisis center board members thanked council members for showing an interest in finding out more about the center.

Freese invited the council to attend the board budget sessions during the last quarter of the year.

"This is an open meeting and would be a good time to come together and ask questions," Freese said.

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