Aurora Mental Health Center to take over detox duties at north Aurora Arapahoe House


AURORA | Aurora Mental Health Center, a nonprofit provider of mental health services in Aurora, will take over detox services in the city later this year, picking up the slack leftover by the city’s former detox services provider, Arapahoe House.

Arapahoe House announced late last year it would be ceasing its metro area detox operations in 2017.

Signal Behavioral Health Network, which manages certain detox services on behalf of the state’s Department of Human Services, formally selected Aurora Mental Health to assume detox duties in Aurora earlier this week. The center was the only organization to send a letter of intent expressing interest in scooping up the city’s recently orphaned detox facility after Signal solicited the contract earlier this year, according to a statement from Daniel Darting, CEO of Signal.

Aurora Mental Health will slowly assume duties at the former Arapahoe House facility on Potomac Street throughout the spring, according to Kathie Snell, COO at AMHC. She said the facility will remain open throughout the transition and AMHC will absorb current staffers who want to continue working under the new management. The current facility employs 22 people.

“If someone didn’t know, they wouldn’t know there had been a change,” Snell said.

The center is aiming to assume full control of the detox center by the end of April, she added.

Arapahoe House, one of the state’s primary providers of drug and alcohol detox services, announced in mid-December that it would close all three of its detox-specific facilities in Aurora, Wheat Ridge and Commerce City by June. Arapahoe House executives at the time said a lack of financial stability and an estimated $2.5 million in annual losses tied to detox services drove the decision to shutter the centers.

The sudden closure of Aurora’s lone detox facility posed an imminent concern for the Aurora Police Department, which transports many detox patients to the Potomac Street center, and caused Aurora City Council to withhold Nexus funding for the site until a new provider was solidified.

Snell said Aurora Mental Health plans to soon meet with city officials to negotiate the disbursement of those Nexus funds, which are dispensed to a slew of local organizations that offer social services.

“We’ll be meeting with the city to discuss picking up those services and reaching an agreement around that funding,” she said.

Detox is a new arena for AMHC, although the organization does provide a few amenities similar to detox for drugs and alcohol through the organization’s Crisis Stabilization Unit, according to Snell.

Until 2017, Arapahoe House was annually treating about 3,000 people at its north Aurora facility, which hosts 30 beds. The average length of stay at the metro area facilities, which do not provide medical care per se, but instead provide people a safe place to sober up from the effects of drugs and alcohol, was about one-and-a-half days, according Arapahoe House CEO Mike Butler.

Snell said she expects those numbers to stay about the same under the new management.

Several law enforcement agencies, including APD, the Arapahoe County sheriff’s office and departments from several municipalities in the southern belt of the metroplex, will be able to transport intoxicated people to the Potomac Street center, according to Snell.

She said after AMHC assumes full control of the facility this summer, the organization may consider adding a second site in the southern portion of the county to better service those communities.

“Those further south municipalities certainly have a longer way to go if they’re going to transport someone,” Snell said. “We have some indication that there may be some additional funding from the state, potentially, for a second site.”

A slew of local health and governmental organizations, including University of Colorado Hospital, The Medical Center of Aurora, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education, wrote letters of support to Signal on behalf of AMHC.

“The reason that we decided to submit the letter of intent and to move forward with this was just the support we were getting from a multitude of community entities and partners,” Snell said.

She said AMHC did not submit letters of intent for the two other Arapahoe House centers in the metro area, but that Community Reach Center has started to assume management duties at another Arapahoe House facility in Adams County, which was also scheduled for closure. The fate of the Jefferson County facility remains undecided.

Representatives from the Aurora Police Department did not immediately return requests for comment on this story.