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By Elisabeth Monaghan

When Arapahoe House announced last summer it would shutter its doors in January of 2018, treatment providers and law enforcement officers wondered who would be able to take on the 5,000 or so clients the facility had served each year over several decades.

Wheat Ridge Police Chief Dan Brennan offered his thoughts on how much of an impact the loss of Arapahoe House has had on his community. According to Brennan, Arapahoe House served two key purposes: 1) The organization provided detox withdrawal services for all of the law enforcement agencies throughout Jefferson County and 2) it provided additional mental health services for those suffering from substance abuse.

For the detox withdrawal services, Brennan says the Jefferson Center for Mental Health (JCMH) stepped up right away to fill the void left by Arapahoe House.

“JCMH said they were interested, so we worked with the cities in Jefferson County, the county and Arapahoe House and came up with a proposal to provide those alcohol withdrawal services,” said Brennan. Prior to JCMH taking over, the organization met with leaders from the departing Arapahoe House, community leaders, law enforcement officers and JCMH.

As part of its effort, JCMH has taken over the Arapahoe House facility at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd. in Wheat Ridge. The first floor of the facility will now house the alcohol detox management services with plans to also move the crisis center currently located at JCMH’s facility at 2nd Avenue and Union Street to the second floor.

Brennan says Jefferson County and the cities that make up the county each will have to contribute a little more money to help JCMH run that facility, but so far, it has been a smooth transition.

“JCMH is doing a good job in terms of providing those needed services, and in how they’re handling the clients, so losing Arapahoe House hasn’t impacted us significantly.”

Brennan also explained if JCMH had not stepped up, “the only choice officers would have is to take people to emergency rooms and hospitals, and frankly they’re not equipped to deal with the volume. We’ll take people who are intoxicated to the hospital, but it’s better to get them to a location where counselors are available to work with them on withdrawal services and issues with alcoholism and substance abuse.”

Which brings us to what Brennan identified as the second purpose Arapahoe House served in the community. As Brennan pointed out, treatment for substance abuse issues and not necessarily with alcohol withdrawal management is a difficult one because substance abuse and alcoholism are not specifically a law enforcement problem as much as they are a criminal justice problem. Because of this, there remains a need for organizations and nonprofits to fill this gap at a state and local level by addressing the mental health issues associated with substance abuse.

Signal Behavioral Health Network has created a transition plan for picking up a number of additional services Arapahoe House offered. More about the plan is available at http://signalbhn.org.