Erlanger steps in to meet urgent need

Published:

The Kentucky Enquirer,

Fort Mitchell

Move Erlangers name up higher on our regions civic honor roll: Erlanger wants a mens alcohol and drug recovery center that other communities in northern Kentucky rebuffed.

It wasnt for lack of need. The alternative for alcoholics or addicts unable to get prompt treatment is all too often either jail or death. Transitions Inc., which will operate the new $3.5 million state-funded facility, is currently running a seven-month waiting list. That speaks to the magnitude of the need. Transitions proposed recovery site, off Kentucky 17 south of Interstate 275, seems to strike a reasonable balance between state specifications and Erlangers wishes. The Erlanger Board of Adjustments on April 24 should, at long last, make this long-awaited regional asset happen.

Charlotte Wethington, whose 23-year-old son Casey died of a heroin overdose in 2002 after being parked on a waiting list, found from her informal survey of county coroners that 64 people died from drugs last year in seven northern Kentucky counties. She deplores that hospitals that accept so many other sick patients wont treat substance abusers unless they are patently suicidal. Transitions hired Wethington a year ago as a recovery advocate, and whenever its residential treatment centers are maxed out, its her job to find alternative programs for desperate, chemically dependent treatment seekers. Most often she manages to get them admitted to Louisvilles Healing Place, which Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletchers singled out as the model for his statewide Recovery Kentucky Initiative.

After the 2004 statewide drug summit, Fletcher and other state leaders tried to explain that we cant afford to incarcerate our way out of the drug abuse epidemic. The recovery initiative is designed to locate recovery centers in strategic regions throughout the 120-county state, provided its with the blessing of local residents. After Kenton County neighborhoods repeatedly rejected sites recommended by enthusiastic county leaders, northern Kentucky came perilously close to losing a once-in-a-generation chance at such an asset.

From here to Ashland, Transitions manages 250 residential treatment beds and 64 transitional housing units and serves another 250 people on an outpatient basis. Once construction is approved, the new facility will add 62 treatment beds to the northern Kentucky mix, along with another 38 efficiency apartments for recovery graduates. The site in Erlanger is near only a few homes, but even there, Transitions assistant executive director Karen Hargett has to be ready to allay residents concerns. She packs comparables that show property values have gone up near other Transitions sites. Its often missed, that unlike almost anywhere else, there is no drug use whatsoever at a controlled recovery center. Even stricter rules will apply to the new center: Applicants have to prove they want to quit, and the staff and fellow center-residents can reject the unmotivated.

It could take more than a year to design and build the new center. Lets not further delay such a life-saver.

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