Meth center operational
The first patient at Fargo's new taxpayer-funded meth addiction center slept away most of his first week there. "He's still crashing," said Andi Johnson, clinical director at the Robinson Recovery Center. "Once he wakes up, he's going to want to ...
The first patient at Fargo's new taxpayer-funded meth addiction center slept away most of his first week there.
"He's still crashing," said Andi Johnson, clinical director at the Robinson Recovery Center. "Once he wakes up, he's going to want to eat the entire house."
The 20-bed center, created with $500,000 from the state's general fund, began accepting patients Tuesday from across North Dakota.
Private and public treatment centers have been treating meth addicts for years, but this marks the first time one has received state money specifically for meth addicts. Legislators approved the pilot program last year with overwhelming support.
"This is precedent-setting legislation," Johnson said. "People need to understand that this is a huge step forward for our state."
The new treatment program is part of ShareHouse, a nonprofit treatment center at 4227 9th Ave. S. that's been providing addiction care since 1975. The Robinson Recovery Center is located next to ShareHouse.
The site accepts patients on referrals from across the state. In its first week, calls came from Grand Forks, Dickinson, Jamestown and Fargo.
The idea is to catch addicts and treat them before they enter the criminal justice system and cost the state even more, said Larry Robinson, the senator from Valley City behind the legislation and the center's namesake.
Robinson said the state's soaring prison population - often attributed to meth - made legislators realize they had to try something new.
Robinson had hoped for a 50-bed pilot program, but said 20 beds is still "a giant first step."
The Department of Human Services received two applications for the money. It ultimately chose ShareHouse over the State Hospital in Jamestown.
Both sites were qualified, but ShareHouse offered more treatment days at a lower cost, said JoAnne Hoesel, director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division of the Department of Human Services.
Patients at the Robinson Recovery Center will live in one of four three-bedroom apartments. Daily treatment sessions will range from morning meditation and exercise to group therapy and cognitive restructuring.
Other treatment centers have taken notice of the state project.
"It's a huge deal," said Julie Sagen, a chemical dependency nurse at Prairie St. John's in Fargo. "The state found out they were spending a lot of money on corrections."
Prairie St. John's, a private care center, plans to open its own long-term meth treatment program with seven to eight beds this month or next.
Next year, the Department of Human Services must report to the Legislature on the ShareHouse program and its results, including relapse statistics. Legislators will decide whether to continue its funding past June 2007.
"This particular program will be on everybody's radar screen," Robinson said.
Research shows a good treatment program can keep about 60 percent of its patients from relapsing for a year or more, Robinson said.
But even a relapse doesn't mean the person has failed, said Johnson and Bill Lopez, ShareHouse executive director.
Treatment doesn't cure addicts, it only to hopes to reduce their burden on society by reducing their risk of relapsing and making them contributing members once again, Lopez said.
"If we don't read about them (in the news), then we assume they're doing pretty good," Lopez said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538