A new treatment program for substance abuse moved one step closer to reality Thursday, as the board of directors of Central Peninsula General Hospital unanimously approved a resolution to send the proposal on to the CPGH Service Area board.
"This facility is badly needed in our community," said Pat Bourke-Peters, a social worker at the hospital who presented plans for the new program to members of the board at its monthly meeting.
"Most patients requiring medical detox need residential treatment, and right now all we can offer them is a band-aid approach. We have to put them on a waiting list for Clitheroe Center in Anchorage or Kodiak's Safe Harbor program, and it usually takes up to three months to get them in."
The only residential treatment center for substance abuse on the Kenai Peninsula, the Family Recovery Center, is no longer open.
The 28-day program would be based on the 12-step concept originated by Alcoholics Anonymous and will incorporate group therapy, psychological testing, individual assessment and counseling, and conferences with family members. Patients would be referred to the program by their family physician or emergency room staff.
A site already has been chosen for the treatment center five miles west of the intersection of Bridge Access Road and Kalifornsky Beach Road, at a former bed and breakfast on seven acres. The 2,500-square-foot building has three floors with six beds and three bathrooms. Men would be housed on one floor and women on another, Peters said. Five staff members would be hired by the hospital -- a director, two counselors and two night monitors who also would do the cooking for patients' meals.
"Ideally, we'd like to have at least one of the staff be a 12-step person themselves," said Peters, "someone who has been there and understands and can be on hand to help patients in their recovery."
The site has access to beaches and hiking trails and is in a quiet neighborhood, well suited to the program's objectives.
"Part of the treatment for recovery is recreation," Peters said. "Outdoor activities, like walking on the beach, help people learn to enjoy a sober life."
The program has the full support of the area's medical community. Four Soldotna physicians have been directly involved in planning for the new facility -- Drs. Marguerite McIntosh, Gonzalo Fraser, John Kasukonis and Marcus Deede.
"This program is long overdue," Deede said. "It's a nice, placid, isolated place with supportive people who've been there themselves. It doesn't need to be sophisticated or expensive. It will provide a good oasis for people with substance abuse problems."
The program would probably operate at a loss to begin with, said Peters, but may eventually be funded by grants, which the hospital is writing now. Patients with insurance or employer-paid recovery programs also would help pay for the facility.
The hospital board passed the resolution to approve the program. The proposal will go next to the CPGH Service Area board, for its approval, and then to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. This process will take several months, according to hospital board President Diana Zirul. Final approval by the assembly is expected sometime in September.
Other items approved by the board included new equipment and improvements for the radiology department, installation of heated downspouts and gutters, and adoption of an official nondiscrimination policy required by state and federal law.
The board also voted to extend the hospital's contract with emergency medical services for two years. This contract includes the city of Kenai, Central Emergency Services, Ninilchik Community Ambulance Association, Cooper Landing Rescue and the Nikiski Fire Department.
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