Help sought for substance abusers |

Help sought for substance abusers

EAGLE COUNTY ” Steve Ramsey has seen what the dangerously drunk can do to a night at work, and it’s not pretty.

Ramsey, an officer at the Eagle County Detention Center, said the jail is usually busy enough on a Friday or Saturday night, but the officers can follow a certain routine. But when officers bring in someone who’s dangerously drunk, that person takes priority.

Since anyone brought to the jail for being too drunk ” or otherwise intoxicated ” hasn’t committed a crime, they’re usually more upset than most of the people brought to jail, Ramsey said.

“But this is the only safe place for them,” Ramsey said. “Detox would be better for them.”

The dangerously drunk or intoxicated may get some help in the next few months from people who have stumbled in their shoes.

A group of county, town and medical officials are now working on a program called “Sober Living Eagle County.” Once the program starts, the dangerously drunk will be picked up by police. That’s when things change.

A program volunteer ” probably a recovering alcoholic or drug addict ” will pick up the person and take him or her to the Glenwood Springs detox center run by Colorado West Mental Health. Once the person has sobered up, the same volunteer will take him or her home, and provide advice about how to sober up.

The Sober Living program ” which the Eagle County commissioners are now considering for the 2007 budget ” is modeled closely after the Right Door program in the nearby Roaring Fork Valley.

That program pioneered the use of recovering alcoholics as volunteers, as well as opening up lines of communications between detox centers, police and hospitals, said Brad Osborn, the program’s director.

“We all help and support each other,” Osborn said. “If the police take a drunk homeless man off the streets, we can take him off their hands.”

Besides freeing up police for other duty, Right Door volunteers can begin working with someone fairly quickly. If an intoxicated person has been accused of a crime, a Right Door volunteer comes to that person’s first court hearing.

“Judges ask them to work with the Right Door,” Osborn said. “And the judges have been respectful of our recommendations.”

Osborn said there have been a number of successes in the Right Door’s three years of work. There have been plenty of failures, too, he said.

Sometimes, it takes some time for a person to ask for help, and sometimes, a volunteer will tell a family that the time isn’t right for an extensive, and expensive, treatment program.

“A lot of people will come back in a month, when they’ve had some other things go wrong,” Osborn said.

Taking time also gives Right Door volunteers a chance to get involved with families, too.

“Families need support as much as individuals,” Osborn said.

Local officials are impressed enough with the Right Door program that some thought has been given to trying to extend the nonprofit group’s authority to Eagle County.

Eagle County will probably create its own program, but it will closely mirror the one now running in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“People are getting helped,” Osborn said. “That’s the important thing.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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