Future of eastern Idaho rehab center uncertain

By By RUTH BROWN

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — For Shawnee Smith, landing on the doorstep of the Addictions Rehabilitation Association was a last chance.

The 20-year-old Rigby woman was so addicted to methamphetamine, she didn't know who she was anymore. Her life was out of control. The day before she walked into the inpatient rehabilitation center, she signed away custody of her 18-month-old daughter to the girl's father.

It was the Addictions Rehabilitation Association that helped her get back on track and kept her sober. But how long the facility can continue to help addicts such as Smith is an open question.

The ARA, a nonprofit facility, closed its doors Oct. 1 for two weeks because it ran out of money. It reopened with an increased price for halfway housing, some additional state-funded clients, as well as other changes, but the future of the 46-year-old facility — the oldest rehab facility in Idaho — remains in doubt.

Since it reopened, the cost of halfway housing increased from $340 a month to $625 a month.

The facility receives about $4,400 per month in funding from the United Way. The rehab center once operated on a yearly budget of $900,000. Today, its budget is just under $400,000, Executive Director Jack Gaskill said.

"I don't know if we'll make it. It's probably less likely we do than more likely," Gaskill said. "We are still cannibalizing our own bank accounts."

Without more referrals and more funding, the facility has until about February before it must shut its doors again for a final time.

The facility serves two kinds of clients: those who need halfway housing and less-intensive treatment; and residential clients, those with severe addictions in need of intensive treatment. Before the temporary closure, the two client groups did not interact with each other.

Since reopening, however, clients in both groups are working together and supporting each other, treatment supervisor Aishie Lindula said. The facility's staff wanted to try something new, bringing the two groups together so they could find support in the larger group.

The rehab center also hosts Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, something it didn't do in the past. The change brings more community attention, but not more funding, Gaskill said.

Client Brian Moody, 38, is living in halfway housing after he completed his residential treatment. The Pocatello man is a meth addict, and he has no health insurance.

Gaskill is setting set up a payment plan for him, Moody said. The details are still being worked out.

"There are a lot of people that don't have the insurance or the means to get the help they need, and this is a great place," Moody said. "In a lot of ways, it's the difference between life and death."

The cost of residential housing for intensive rehabilitation is $168 a day, or $5,040 a month — the same as it's been in the past. The Addictions Rehabilitation Association, which is staffed 24 hours a day, does not accept health insurance because it does not have an on-site doctor or nurse. Also, Medicaid does not pay for inpatient treatment.

Gaskill said the facility would benefit from accommodating more clients such as Smith, who receive state assistance from the Department of Health and Welfare. The state pays $178 a day for those clients, and Gaskill hopes ARA will receive more referrals. State-funded clients usually are dealing with other serious issues, such as mental illnesses, in addition to their addictions.

"(The Department of Health and Welfare) stopped referring those clients, and now they've started to refer again," Gaskill said. "The state's willingness to send people to residential treatment has gone down dramatically, but our fate depends on it. We need that revenue source."

Part of the reason for fewer referrals comes with funding focused on new programs such as specialty courts and rider programs within the correctional system that offer treatment for those addicts who have committed a crime.

Gaskill said the rehab center could just keep its beds full 24 hours a day as a housing project, but doing so would sacrifice the ability to effectively help each client on a consistent basis.

"The big thing we need is to have the community involvement -- both with donations and interest," Gaskill said. "Interest does eventually yield activity, and activity yields revenue."

For Smith, the ARA community of clients is what makes the facility special. Without it, she knows she would still be using meth.

"The staff here is amazing, and the community here I love. When somebody needs help, we're all there for them because we all have addiction in common," Smith said. "We all get it, and every single day it's a battle to be here. Without that love and support, we wouldn't make it."

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Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com

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