The Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center at 223 West Adams in Riverton is merging with Volunteers of America (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The months-long due diligence of a potential merger between the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center and Sheridan-based Volunteers of America (VOA) ended Monday with a “marriage.”
“We have made a decision, we got married yesterday, we will go with VOA and basically improve the program,” said Alcohol Crisis Center Board Chairman Ron Blumenshine, announcing that the merger would go forward.
VOA Executive Vice President of Operations Heath Steel said VOA would assume operations at the Riverton detox center under a management agreement and would take ownership on July 1st. But he also said VOA would begin operating the Riverton facility beginning this coming Monday.
In a presentation before the Riverton City Council meeting Tuesday night, Steel noted that VOA is a Wyoming faith-based organization that operates in Wyoming and Montana. He said VOA has 170 professional staff members in nine core areas of programming, including substance and alcohol abuse, including social detox and treatment and recovery.
“We will be looking at a continuum of care here,” he said, indicting that VOA would study how to expand what he termed “appropriate level treatment services and a pathway for an option of residential inpatient treatment and aftercare.” He said a clinical staff and team are in place to address those issues beginning next week.
“I want to commend Lisa (Amos) and the board on the job they’ve done here. They’ve done very well with very little for a long time. We’ve gained good folks and we look forward moving on,” Steel said. “They’ve done a very solid job of triaging and saving lives, and they need to celebrate that. They have a true compassion for people being taken care of.”
Mayor Ron Warpness said he and the council “are all very supportive of the direction you are headed. What we’ve done in the past hasn’t solved the problem.”
In a question and answer session, Steel noted that VOA would retain the current staff at the detox center and offer them “enhancements” including insurance and increased wages.
One of the biggest gray areas of the merger would be the impact on the Riverton Police Department. The RPD has used the detox center for housing intoxicated persons rather than incurring the costs of driving arrested individuals and housing them at the Fremont County Detention Center in Lander.
Acknowledging that the entire program had not been worked out yet with Police Chief Mike Broadhead, Steel said there may be some temporary impacts over the next 90 days. “Our intent is to assist the chief to reduce the costs, but all ideas are not signed off yet,” he said.
“I’m excited with the partnership,” said council member Eric Heiser. “I’ve been an outspoken critic of the detox center, not seeing the treatment side, but I have to say they have done a ton with the resources that they had. It’s our number one council goal and we’re well on our way there.”
Other council members also echoed Heiser’s statement. Jonathan Faubion also noted that he was looking forward to a new change in direction. “At least we’re doing something different. What we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked.
The city council’s top goal for 2013 is targeting the problem of public intoxication in the city, and council members said the merger is a piece of the puzzle in finding a solution.