Lessons from Las Vegas: Minnehaha County seeks drug treatment options

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - Many people in Sioux Falls who desperately need recovery services have a hard time accessing those resources.
A team of medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and elected officials in Minnehaha County working to address this issue have traveled the country, visiting many different community triage center models.
One of those is in Las Vegas.
KSFY News reporter Kelley Smith traveled there to find out how it is changing the way people get treatment.
What is the cost of addiction or untreated mental illness?
Las Vegas community leaders say it's expensive and it was coming out of the tax payer’s pocket.

“$1,300 a day for someone to sit at a local emergency room at one of our local hospitals. It's $150 a day to house an inmate in our Clark County Detention Center which is our county jail here in Southern Nevada,” Westcare Director of Crisis Services, Frank Reagen said.

“Sometimes you can just look at one or two people in a community that will eat up tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of public service dollars,” Westcare Foundation Senior Vice President for the Northwest Region, John Lee said

And the community of Las Vegas, couldn't afford it.

“In 2006 here in Southern Nevada, the governor actually declared a state of emergency in Southern Nevada because of the number of individuals that were in local emergency rooms and local hospitals. That's how bad it was,” Reagen said.

But they found a solution. The company Westcare, opened a community triage center.

“We needed a place where folks who have substance abuse, certain mental health issues, needed detoxification from alcohol, in order to avoid impacting the local emergency rooms,” Reagen said.

When a client comes through the doors they are immediately screened to make sure they don't actually need to go to an emergency room.
95% of them don't.

The CTC also serves as a temporary shelter with 51 beds.

“These are all of our housing dorms. Of course we have the female side with the windows obscured for privacy issues. Currently we're at a negative one bed capacity, so we're full, usually on a routine basis,” Reagen said.

The facility also provides detoxification and mental health stabilization.
The triage center served 5,770 clients in 2016.
Westcare officials estimate they saved the community $68,860,685.

The mission of the CTC is not diverting a person away from the emergency room one time, but to make sure they don't end up their again.

“It’s that place where folks can come that want to hopefully change their life,” Reagen said.

He says what sets the CTC apart is the fact that every individual meets with someone who guides them to resources in the community that will help them in their personal recovery journey.

“We provide those wrap around services, counseling, and connect those dots. The part that lacks in a lot of communities is that partnership, the lack of resources the connectedness that folks need to make in order to maintain recovery,” Reagen said.

“That person may, or may not be in any type of capacity to research what it is that they need or help, They don't probably even know sometimes what help they really need,” Director of the women’s facility for Westcare Nevada, Dee Wirth said.

One of those people helping with that journey is Dee Wirth. She runs the Las Vegas women's facility for Westcare, one of the resources the community triage center sends clients to.
She understands what the clients are going through from firsthand experience.

“In 2004, on August 12th, I was arrested. On October 11th, I came to this facility as a client and now I get to be the director, which for me is full circle,” Wirth said.

Peer support is an important part of the experience Westcare and the CTC provides for clients

“I know what this campus needs, I know what these women need. There are a lot of things in the world that I am not very good at, baking probably, statistics, but running this campus and knowing what these women need to be successful, I am an expert at,” Wirth said.

And the peers understand why it's so important clients stay connected.

“Folks continue to report back, they continue to go to counseling, and they continue that connectedness and attend support groups, attend peer groups,” Reagen said.

Back in Sioux Falls, Sanford's Executive Director of Trauma and Emergency Care, Monica Huber, says she was impressed with what she saw in Las Vegas.

“That was a remarkable program they have out there and I was very privileged to be able to see it,” Huber said.

“So, this is really one of the things we think might be right for South Dakota, in particular for Sioux Falls, and Minnehaha County,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

Sheriff Milstead says one change he would make, more mental health services.

“The one thing that I think we're looking to add over and above what they're doing in Vegas is a mental health component,” Milstead said.

Working through an addiction is a lifelong process.
Officials from Westcare say, so far, the CTC seems to be providing a long term solution that works.

“Just over 60% of those almost 6,000 people that came through our doors are sober today, they are clean today. They are a reasonable productive part of the community,” Lee said.
The Las Vegas community triage center is funded by the State of Nevada, as well as a partnership with the local municipalities, and all of the local hospitals
The state pays a third, all of the municipalities pay a third, and all the hospitals pay a third.
But is this something that people could soon see in Sioux Falls?
The team working on this issue in Sioux Falls and is still in the planning phase of this process.
There are still many questions about what a community triage center would look like and when something like this could be implemented in Sioux Falls.