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Denver metro area

Budget shortfall shutters Arapahoe House

Substance abuse programs in metro-area cities to close


A growing substance abuse problem but a lack of money to combat it has caught up with Denver-area treatment program Arapahoe House, forcing it close effective Jan. 2.

“It's less about Arapahoe House and more about the systemic national problem with funding this disease,” Arapahoe House President and CEO Mike Butler said Dec. 15. “The pie is simply too small, and our piece of the pie is too tiny for the needs that are in our community. It's a much bigger challenge than just Arapahoe House.”

The treatment program announced the decision Dec. 15 with a post to its web page saying it would no longer accept new patients and would conclude treatment for existing patients as of Jan. 2.

“This is probably one of the worst days of my career,” Butler said.

Arapahoe House, which has been in operation since 1975, treats between 4,000 and 5,000 patients annually, he said.

Arapahoe House operates four residential treatment programs — two in Thornton and programs in Westminster and Littleton — that are currently treating 40 people. The program also is treating about 100 people on an outpatient basis at programs in Aurora, Denver, Lakewood and Thornton.

Butler said program administrators are working to find programs that will take the residential patients.

“Of course, there are more opportunities for people getting outpatient treatment,” he said.

Butler said Arapahoe House's call center — which can be reached at 303-657-3700 — will remain open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, through Jan. 2.

The program has expenses of about $11 million per year, he said. Most of its funds come from government programs like Medicaid or other subsidies.

“We are completely dependent on government funding, and that ebbs and flows,” he said. “And you know that on a national level, there is a lot of energy to shrink that funding in order to reduce taxes.”

Butler said Arapahoe House's revenues have been about $1 million short for the past six years, forcing it to dip into its reserves. As of the end of 2017, those reserves are mostly depleted, he said.

It's a problem that's been building, he said.

More: Jeffco community teams up to save Arapahoe House detox facility

“We have been trying to transition Arapahoe House for sustainability,” Butler said. “We have been providing so many services, but recently we've been trying to focus on programs that provide deep therapeutic treatment for our patients and shedding programs that were not at that level.”

Arapahoe House began closing auxillary programs this summer, including the 24-hour detox program it operated for Adams County. Community Reach Center took over that program in June 2017.

“But despite all those efforts, there is just insufficient funding to continue,” Butler said.

Community Reach Center officials said it was too soon to determine how they would react to Arapahoe House' latest announcement.

The decision will also take away the jobs for Arapahoe House's 200 employees.

The irony is that substance abuse is considered a national problem, Butler said. Arapahoe House's news release notes that President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, but Butler said those were empty words.

“It's all talk; there is no funding,” Butler said. “To say that there is an epidemic and not allocate additional funding is like saying that a hurricane hit New Orleans, but not allocating any relief to help.”


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