PAGE — In an 11th hour reprieve, managers of the local detox center have come to an agreement with the Navajo Nation allowing the center to remain open and continue providing a place for intoxicated individuals to spend the night and get help with their drinking.
The center was set to close its doors on April 11 due to a cutoff in aid from the tribe, which indicated that it needed to shift funds from the Page detox center to a new facility being built in New Mexico. That aid amounted to $139,000 annually, and helped the local center provide a place for intoxicated individuals to spend the night rather than risk exposure to the elements.
The center has been credited with saving many lives as well as helping steer people with alcohol problems into treatment.
At a meeting on April 7 in Flagstaff, Community Behavioral Health Services Director Joe Wright met with representatives of the Navajo Nation as well as the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority. Tribal officials proposed an “alternative mechanism” to cover the loss of funding: the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which serves as the Arizona disburser of federal Medicaid funding, Wright said.
Tribal officials also promised to provide a staff worker for the center to help enroll members of the Navajo Nation and do the necessary paperwork, Wright said.
While the new arrangement won’t completely make up for the loss of tribal money, it will cover an estimated 80 percent of those tribal members who utilize the services of the detox center, Wright said.
“It’s great news,” Wright said. “We still will face some challenges with it, you bet. Right now I’m willing to face any challenge rather than closing the program down.”
Wright has said previously that closure of the center could bring about a return of the situation prior to its opening in 1996, when numerous individuals died from sleeping out during cold weather. Widespread problems with vagrancy, public drunkenness, panhandling and other related issues also diminished in the years following the center’s opening, he said.
More than 90 percent of the center’s clients are Navajo, but Wright has emphasized that this doesn’t mean that the local non-Indian population doesn’t have its own share of serious alcohol problems. Instead, it simply reflects the fact that seriously intoxicated Anglos have somewhere locally to call home, while intoxicated Navajo people very often have nowhere to go and no ride to return home.
The detox center, properly known as the Rural Substance Abuse Transitional Facility, not only gives those individuals a warm and safe place to sleep and sober up, but also helps direct those who are willing to make the effort into CBHS treatment programs, Wright said.
He added that he was impressed with the commitment not only of Navajo Nation representatives, but also officials from NARBHA.
“I was extremely pleased with the attitudes and demeanor of the Navajo Nation employees,” he said. “I think that they were sincerely concerned about their people over here. But at the same time, I think they’re facing budget cuts and budgetary problems just like everyone else is. So if they can find a different mechanism to fund this program, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Future level of state support for NARBHA remains a serious concern, Wright said. That private entity provides $300,000 a year for CBHS.
The state of Arizona, which funds NARBHA under contract, currently faces an estimated $1.5 billion shortfall. That affects everything from schools to substance abuse programs.
“It’s a grave concern,” he said. “We’re still very concerned about the cuts this year and next year.”
Share on Facebook