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Officials press for detox center for Bismarck area

December 30, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Officials are pushing for a detox center for the Bismarck area, but questions remain about where the facility would be located and how it would be funded.

Statistics presented at a recent community forum show that the Bismarck Police Department paid nearly $20,000 for detox services at the county jail from January to September of 2018. During that same period, the Police Department received more than 3,250 calls for service related to intoxication, with two officers responding to each call at a total cost of nearly $160,000.

“When we’re dealing with detox calls, we’re not doing the stuff the citizens of Bismarck expect from us,” said Deputy Bismarck Police Chief Randy Ziegler, who presented the figures. “When we’re spending so many man-hours dealing with individuals who are under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, we’re not getting a chance to be proactive in our communities, and we’re not getting an opportunity to meet with individuals of our community and do the community policing aspect.”

Ziegler said when officers respond to a detox call, they have two options: release the intoxicated person to a friend or family member, or transport them to an emergency room where they are medically cleared to be taken to jail to sleep it off.

Public intoxication is not a crime in North Dakota. Ziegler said intoxicated people typically stay in jail for eight hours before they’re released. And many return to jail a short time later.

“There’s great expense to that, whether it’s an officer’s time, whether it’s an emergency room’s time and the resources that have to go into somebody, basically, being able to sleep it off,” Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken said.

A social detox center is being proposed for the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area, the Bismarck Tribune reported . Local homeless shelters do not accept people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“We are to the point where we want to try and make something happen and maybe move something forward,” said Renae Moch, director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

Many details still need to be determined, such as where the center will be located or if a new or existing building will be used. A facility with 10 to 12 beds with around-the-clock staffing for client admissions is being considered.

It’s also not known how the center will be funded. Moch said at least $350,000 is needed to move the project forward. She estimates it will take at least a year to establish a social detox center within the community.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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