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State closes alcohol detox program, citing safety concerns

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published May 26, 2010

State health officials this week shut down a Salvation Army alcohol detoxification unit because of health and safety problems.

Officials said they couldn't discuss specific concerns because the matter is under investigation.

The six patients at the unit were moved to other facilities. Residential and outpatient treatment services at Clitheroe Center remain open. The center is on West End Road, beyond Stevens International Airport.

The six-bed detox unit opened last fall with much hoopla. Legislators, state officials and city leaders all attended the grand opening of the unit, which included slots for people who had been ordered by a court to get sober for their own health and survival.

Salvation Army officials said an incident occurred April 30 in which staff members were not providing appropriate supervision.

One client was sent to the hospital for evaluation, said Jenni Ragland, Salvation Army spokeswoman. She said she could not say specifically what happened because of client confidentiality.

"There were no criminal charges. There were no deaths involved, no harm to individuals," Ragland said. Disciplinary action was taken, she said, but she couldn't say specifically what.

"In this instance policies in place were not fully applied, which resulted in a serious violation of our safety protocol," the Salvation Army said in a written statement. "Staff on duty took immediate action in caring for the clients, reports were filed with all required parties on the first business day (May 3) following the incident and our management team met to develop and implement additional safeguards to prevent future incidents."

The facility is undergoing what the Salvation Army called "a safety review," and the agency said it is cooperating fully. Doug Tollerud, commander of the Salvation Army in Alaska, called the specialized treatment unit "a critical part of our community's safety net of services."

The clients who are ending up at Clitheroe for detox often are critically ill and have lived for years in challenging circumstances. Some want to stay longer than the court-ordered 30 days and agree to undergo longer treatment voluntarily, Ragland said.

Stacy Toner, state Behavioral Health Division deputy director, said patients were at risk but she couldn't provide any details until the state completes its investigation.

The state was alerted to problems at Clitheroe after the incident in late April, Toner said.

"We gave them an opportunity to correct things and decided to act when we weren't seeing progress," she said.

Detoxification programs are essential to addressing Alaska's alcohol addiction problems, officials said. The state is working to help Clitheroe reopen or see if another agency can provide the service, Toner said.

Detox services have been in short supply in Anchorage. Some people can safely go through detox at home, under the supervision of their primary care physician, Toner said. But that's not an option for many of Anchorage's most hard-core alcoholics, who live on the streets and have little in the way of family support.

Cook Inlet Tribal Council also runs detox services in Anchorage. If the Ernie Turner Center detox is full, the state may pay to fly patients to facilities in Fairbanks and Juneau, Toner said. The Fairbanks Native Association's detox clinic was shut down for a time last year when its only nurse practitioner quit.

By LISA DEMER

ldemer@adn.com

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