SLO County Hires Detox Center Operator

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Posted: Friday, March 25th, 2022
New Times San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo County’s first-ever public detoxification center is a step closer to getting up and running.

On Nov. 16, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Sun Street Centers, a Salinas-based nonprofit, to operate the 15-bed medically assisted withdrawal treatment center, located on the campus of the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center in SLO.

Construction on the $1.7 million facility wrapped up in August, and now Sun Street Centers will seek state licensing for it. Officials expect it to have a soft opening in January and be fully operational by the spring.

Once open, the center will be the first of its kind in the county—capable of serving any resident, regardless of income, under the Medi-Cal system.

“We’re just so excited. It’s been a journey,” said Star Graber, a division manager at SLO County Drug and Alcohol Services. “The opioid epidemic is still here. The overdose death rate is still very high.”

Since 2018, the local demand for residential drug and alcohol treatment services has more than tripled, according to county data, and the county’s opioid death rate stood 55 percent higher than the state’s in 2020.

But to date, those in SLO County seeking care for their addictions have had to travel to treatment centers as far away as Hollister and Lancaster. The lone local resource is Bryan’s House, in Atascadero, which has six beds but only serves women.

The new SLO detox center, Graber said, will enable clients to stay close to their families, jobs, and communities while they receive treatment and recover. At first, it will focus on male clients, Graber said.

She added that the powerful and deadly nature of the current opioid crisis makes medically assisted detox centers that much more critical to fighting it.

“The drugs have changed and they’ve become so much more severe,” she said. “[A user’s] tolerance is so high now, they need that safe environment to come back down to a more reasonable level, and then we can administer medications to match that withdrawal.”

SLO County’s Behavioral Health Department already contracts with Sun Street Centers’ detox facilities in Monterey and San Benito counties, making it a logical operating partner in SLO. Established in the Salinas Valley in the 1960s, the nonprofit has “a great track record” of providing services, Graber said.

Sun Street Centers CEO Anna Foglia told New Times by phone that her organization “is really looking forward to supporting people in SLO, in town.”

“There’s been a great need, especially during COVID,” Foglia said. “We hope to serve men and women who are ready to turn their lives around and seek long-term recovery.”