Tuesday, January 2 was the last day of operation for Arapahoe House in Denver, Colo., the state’s largest provider of substance use disorder treatment. Arapahoe House, which has been providing care since 1975, closed due to budget woes tied to inadequate funding from state and federal programs, including Medicaid.
Local and state health officials said they have been working with five to 10 other treatment providers in the area to fill the need created by the closing.
Arapahoe House President and CEO Mike Butler said the program’s financial problems are not a recent phenomenon; the nonprofit provider struggled for years to deal with the gap between the need for treatment and the financial resources to pay for care.
“This is devastating for our community and the state as a whole,” he said in a statement. “We care for an extremely vulnerable population including pregnant women and women with children. Without Arapahoe House, there are precious few places for these individuals to go. Despite a widespread and growing opioid crisis in Colorado and nationwide, state and federal funding for addiction treatment remains inadequate.”
To keep its residential and outpatient programs operating, Butler said Arapahoe House had already discontinued programs serving youth and individuals referred by the criminal justice system. But, recent and anticipated future reductions in funding have made it impossible to maintain the basic treatment programs.
According to state data estimates, only 11 to 16 percent of Coloradans receive the substance use disorder treatment they need. An accidental drug overdose happens in Colorado every nine hours and 36 minutes, according to studies.
Colorado Senator Cheri Jahn, a member of the Business, Labor and Technology Committee and an Arapahoe House board member, noted that the Trump Administration’s recent announcement naming the opioid epidemic as a national crisis was not accompanied by any increase in treatment funding.
“Treatment hasn’t been adequately covered for years, and it’s only going to get worse,” said Jahn. “Substance use disorders are a serious, highly stigmatized health condition and individuals suffering from addiction need and deserve access to high-quality treatment.”
“Studies show that every $1 invested in treatment saves $12 that would have been spent on services such as child welfare, health care and the criminal justice system,” said Jahn. “Treatment is good health care and a good investment; however, adequate state and federal funding for treatment simply is not provided.”
Arapahoe House had been serving nearly 5,000 patients per year, with a staff of about 200 employees.
Six months ago, on June 30, Arapahoe House stopped providing detox services at three sites it had maintained in the Denver area. It was able to arrange for three local mental health providers to take over those services in local suburbs, last spring and summer: Community Outreach Center in Commerce City, Aurora Mental Health Center in Aurora, and Jefferson Center for Mental Health, in Wheat Ridge.
However, local officials said it’s doubtful that all of Arapahoe House’s patients will be able to easily make the transition to using a new provider.
Daniel Darting, the CEO of Signal Behavioral Health Network, which helps manage treatment services in the Denver area, said the “incredibly short notice” of the closing compounds the challenge for local treatment providers and those they serve. SBHN has been involved in coordinating the transition to other treatment centers. “I think everyone is left scrambling,” he told the Denver Post.
Officials at other treatment providers in the Denver area, said they have been working hard to ensure everyone will get the treatment they need. “You’ve got everyone stepping up to the plate,” Rick Doucet, the CEO of Community Reach Center, told the Post. Community Reach is taking over some of the services Arapahoe House provided in Adams County. “And that will more than easily cover all of the services Arapahoe House is currently providing,” he said.
Jefferson Center CEO Harriet Hall indicated she hopes to expand the center’s medication assisted treatment services and also add capacity in its other treatment programs.
However, others are not as optimistic. Denver Health, a public, safety-net institution which provides medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction, says it does not have the capacity to take on additional patients. “We turn away about as many people as we see every day,” Denver Health spokesman Josh Rasmussen told the Post. “The line looks the same every day. As long as we’re open, we’re at capacity.”