Detox provider Arapahoe House announces plans to close north Aurora center


AURORA | The only social detox facility in Aurora will be closing sometime next year, posing an impending crisis for the Aurora Police Department, Deputy Police Chief Paul O’Keefe said Dec. 19 at a city council study session.

Arapahoe House, one of the state’s primary providers of drug and alcohol detox services, plans to close all three of its detox-specific facilities across the metro area by the end of June, the organization announced last week. The nonprofit will start by closing its north Aurora clinic on Potomac Street, as well as locations in Wheat Ridge and Commerce City, Arapahoe House CEO Mike Butler confirmed Tuesday.

Butler said the detox side of Arapahoe House’s services, which has been offered for more than 40 years, has become too much of a financial burden. He said the organization’s three detox centers would see $2.5 million in losses next year, according to 2017 financial projections.

Butler said Arapahoe House’s detox operations represent about 20 percent of the organization’s business and services.

At the Monday night study session, O’Keefe said the funding shortfall for Arapahoe House’s Aurora part of the program is “in the neighborhood of $300,000.” The organization had requested $175,000 in annual Nexus funding from the city, and officials later allocated $119,000 for Arapahoe House.

However, City Manager Skip Noe advised council not to immediately grant Arapahoe House its previously allocated funds until a long-term plan for the organization’s role in the city was fleshed out.

“My recommendation to you about this money is we just hold tight on this,” Noe said. “We don’t know what the answer is — we certainly would not want to give them money for services that are not going to be performed.”

Council voted not to grant Arapahoe House its Nexus grant funding. All other Nexus organizations, including Comitis Crisis Center, SunGateKids, Gateway Domestic Violence Services, Aurora Mental Health, Metro Community Provider Network and Aurora Behavioral Health Care Collaboration, were granted their funding, totaling roughly $750,000.

Butler said Arapahoe House has started meeting with governmental and police representatives from each of the counties in which the organization operates — Arapahoe, Adams and Jefferson — to discuss finding a replacement provider and necessary funds by June.

If stopgap funding is not solidified, Arapahoe House could shutter its detox operations as soon as Jan. 30, according to Noe and later confirmed by Butler.

Butler said his organization is committed to transitioning the estimated 20 people who work at the north Aurora facility into jobs with a new detox provider in the city next year.

Arapahoe House annually treats about 10,000 people across its three detox centers, according to Butler. About 3,000 of those treated visit the north Aurora facility.

The three facilities, which do not provide medical care per se, but instead provide people a safe place to sober up from the effects of drugs or alcohol, host 88 beds. The average length of stay is one-and-a-half days, according to Butler.

While Denver Health provides similar social detox services, there are no such facilities in Aurora, according to Butler.

O’Keefe said that poses a major dilemma for Aurora Police.

“The loss of that program is an enormous problem for us,” he said. “I don’t have an answer for what the best solution looks like.”

In an effort to thwart the potential blow to local law enforcement, Ward II City Councilwoman Renie Peterson introduced an amendment that called for cutting, at first 5 percent and later 2.5 percent of funding from the six other Nexus organizations to create an emergency pot of funds for future detox services in Aurora. The amendment did not garner enough support from Peterson’s fellow council members.

At-large councilman Bob LeGare condemned Arapahoe House for announcing its plans for closure so late in the year.

“Arapahoe House didn’t take any consideration of the fact that they’re dropping a bombshell on cities and counties and hundreds of thousands of people that are going to be impacted,” LeGare said. “And they’re giving us what? Two weeks before the end of the year? Saying they’re shutting down at the end of January … I think it’s ridiculous that they dropped this on us at the last minute.”

Butler said Arapahoe House will decide whether it will close by the end of June or the end of January shortly after the New Year.