It’s been about 10 months since Río Grande Alcoholism Treatment Program cleared a final hurdle with the town of Taos to convert a town building into a new detox center, so why has that not happened yet?
In a word? Money.
Lawrence Medina, director of Río Grande and a recovered addict himself, won hearts and minds last year across Taos County as he campaigned to restore detox services to Taos. But raising sufficient funds to cover steep renovation costs for the space, located at 920 Salazar Road, and securing operational dollars have kept his dream from coming to fruition – at least so far.
“If it was up to us, we would love to have had it open yesterday,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday (Sept. 8), “but we’re raising money from scratch to make this happen. We’re looking to the community to help fund this.”
Medina said his organization, along with a community development committee he formed to advise on the project, hope to raise $300,000 in donations through a GoFundMe campaign set to launch soon. He said that chunk will go toward needed renovations, like getting a sprinkler system installed and separate bathrooms for men and women built.
After that, Medina estimates the center will take roughly $500,000 to operate each year, a cost he hopes to cover through “grants and individual donors.” He said Taos County has promised a still undetermined amount of annual funding, but that money won’t start flowing until the space has been brought up to code.
“We are moving ahead,” Medina said. “Of course, the pandemic has delayed things.”
Taos County approved Río Grande to restore detox services to the area in early 2019 after a previous detox center closed down in 2015. Río Grande began renting the Salazar Road space that April. By August 2019, the Taos Planning and Zoning Committee had approved a special use permit to convert the building to a detox. Río Grande completed application requirements for the permit around November of that year.
Since then Medina has completed a detailed business plan for how the detox center will work. He plans for it to accommodate 16 patients as they go through withdrawal from drugs, alcohol or some combination, in a safe environment. While withdrawal from some more notorious drugs, like heroin, can make a patient very ill, detoxing from alcohol can be life-threatening without proper medical care in place.
Medina says the need for a detox center in town is no less important than it was when Río Grande won the bid to restore the service in 2019. A social detox center run by the defunct Tri-County Community Services shut down on Weimer Road in 2015.
“People are suffering,” Medina said. “People are falling through the cracks.”
The clock is ticking though, as Río Grande only has two years to see if it can come up with the funds to provide the service to get the detox open. Medina said that largely depends on how badly the community wants it.
Until the GoFundMe is launched, he said people interesting in making a donation to the project can visit riograndeatp.org/.