Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Gateway to Recovery Detox Center Operating at Capacity
The Gateway to Recovery Detox Center is finally operating at its full, 16-bed capacity after opening its doors more than two years ago.
FAIRBANKS — The Gateway to Recovery Detox Center is finally operating at its full, 16-bed capacity after opening its doors more than two years ago.
It has been a long and bumpy journey for the center, which experienced staffing problems from the beginning. At one point, it was forced to close for three months because of the lack of a qualified health practitioner to provide required medical oversight.
Now, a staff of 12 full-time nurses care for people who are brought in, usually by the Community Service Patrol, because they are incapacitated by alcohol or opiates and may be a danger to themselves.
These individuals, referred to at the detox center as “consumers” and never as “patients,” may choose to stay or leave, as the center is not a lock-down facility. Those who stay will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, depending on their drug of choice and their level of dependence.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include tremors, vomiting, hallucinations and seizures, while opiate withdrawal usually brings flu-like symptoms such as chills, muscle ache, tremors and vomiting. Both alcohol and opiate withdrawal can end in death if untreated.
The aim of the center is to give chronic inebriates a place to receive medical attention while detoxing, freeing hospital resources for other members of the community.
“We have 85-100 chronic inebriates in the community. Some of them are in the emergency room several times a month,” said Perry Ahsogeak, director of behavioral health for the Fairbanks Native Association, the organization that operates the center.
The average stay for alcohol detox is three days, while the average stay for opiates is 10, Ahsogeak said. Consumers attend mandatory group counseling sessions and work with a care coordinator who assesses their treatment needs. They are then referred to one of two case managers, who help patients find resources and get employment. If a consumer chooses to begin rehab, they move to a different facility.
The detox center is the brainchild of the Golden Heart Project, a collaboration of community organizations and leaders working to find solutions to the chronic inebriate problem in Fairbanks.
“Our work encompasses the entire system of moving people off the street and into treatment. Increasing detox access and capacity has been one of many strategies we’ve employed to improve on our communities’ system,” said Carol Davila, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital’s representative for the project.