It is so vital that this has finally happened here in Denver. It's a huge step in the right direction.
There will be a lot of work to do around implementation and getting the word out to the people who need to be able to access this opportunity. At least now the opportunity exists.
Denver resident Scott Ammon says the Stout Street Foundation rehabilitation center saved his life.
“From the moment that I walked through the doors of the Stout Street Foundation, I felt love and compassion from the staff and residents pour onto me,” he said. “I was physically and mentally tormented by my views of myself and of my world. Not knowing what to expect, I quickly found out how much understanding other people with addictions had for what I had been going through.”
A new five-year Denver Drug Strategy Plan — officially unveiled last night at Cableland, the mayor’s official residence — aims to bring similar treatment services to the estimated 1,300 drug-ladened people in the city who crave rehabilitation services. These people are unable to find the services they desire because of a lack of capacity in the city’s current treatment system. Denver has 74 licensed substance abuse treatment programs. About 5,295 people are receiving treatment at these facilities, but an additional 1,304 people are seeking services that they cannot find because of a lack of resources, according to a recent report issued by the Denver Drug Strategy Commission, which cited statistics from 2006.
1 in 10 have substance abuse problem?
Of Denverites 12 years of age and older, 53,600 people report dependencies on drugs or alcohol — the entire Denver 12 and older population is 487,274, as of 2006. Slightly more than one in 10 individuals 12 years and older in Denver has a substance abuse problem.
Last year, 9 percent of the Denver population reported being addicted to alcohol and 3 percent of the population reported being addicted to drugs, according to the Denver Drug Strategy Commission report. Denver has a greater problem than the rest of the state in the areas of cocaine and heroin. There’s also a much higher arrest rate for narcotic violations than the rest of the state and methamphetamine treatment cases in Denver have increased three times from 2000 to 2005 — the rate of emergency room visits for meth more than doubled from 2004 to 2005.
Taking a toll
Drug Strategy officials point out that drug and alcohol abuse takes its toll on the community, not just on a social level, but economically as well. The cost of unaddressed substance abuse issues in Denver exceeds $600 million annually.
The drug plan includes six goals, including treatment, prevention and intervention, integration of services, education, research and an overall evaluation.
Officials with the Department of Human Services admit that finding the resources to achieve the goals of the plan will be difficult. But after developing the plan and targeting specific areas of need, planners are optimistic that federal and state grants will be made available to see the plan through.
Denver Drug Strategy Commission Chair Jamie Van Leeuwen and Director Karla Maraccini said three surveys will also help to identify direction for obtaining resources and funding.
“The surveys are so important so that we can make thoughtful decisions,” said Maraccini. “We want to make sure that the data drives the decisions.”
Including Healthy Kids Colorado surveys that already take place, the plan calls for drug prevalence and community perception surveys.
Most costly goal — treatment
The most costly goal falls in the area of treatment. One of the plan’s objectives calls for at least $500,000 to provide treatment capacity for an additional 270 people every year for five years.
The plan also calls for a community-wide effort to prevent the onset of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as educational campaigns through public service announcements and other educational tools.
After 18 months of planning, which included 28 members of the community sitting on the Denver Drug Strategy Commission, officials believe they have a plan that can work. But as the president of Denver-based Advocates for Recovery pointed out, it will take a community-wide effort to see the plan through.
“No one says, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a drug addict,’” said Tonya Wheeler. “We must teach our community that addiction is not a choice that people make, but that it is a disease that has treatment and a solution.”
Denver Daily News