In Western Iowa, Group Pushes For Detox Center Serving Homeless, Native Americans

Aug 15, 2018

Advocates for a planned western Iowa detoxification center for people recovering from addiction say there is a real need for one that serves Native American and homeless people.

Members of the Siouxland Street Project initiative say they hope to open a temporary detoxification center in Sioux City by the end of the year to serve people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions because “the need is so high right now,” said Matt Ohman, executive director of Siouxland Human Investment Partnership.

“There’s a lot of people medically detoxing in the hospitals, there’s people who are not detoxing at all,” he said. “They just have public intoxes, they’re taken to jail and that type of thing. It’s such a waste of our resources.”

Credit Data courtesy of the Sioux City Police Department. Graphed by Iowa Public Radio on Microsoft Excel.

Ohman said the planned detox center would be for all, but it would primarily serve homeless people who don't currently have access and tend to cycle in and out of the hospital for detox.  

In 2017, Siouxland Street Project and Briar Cliff University staff surveyed 100 people on the streets. Forty-seven of them were Native American, which Ohman said is a disparity.

“Seeing that come out in those surveys was a little bit shocking,” Ohman said. “[We] want to make sure whatever we put in place for a detox center – and we’ve been working really closely with the Native American community – has a cultural component, a cultural flavor to it so that we can be sure that we are meeting the needs of the population that we’re serving.” 
 

"We need to find a continuum of care." -Frank LaMere, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

One of the people on board the project is Native American activist Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska from South Sioux City. LaMere says many homeless people on the Sioux City streets want to get well and try to get well, but they don’t succeed because there is a disconnect in the continuum of care that causes them to end up back on the streets.

“We need to elevate this discussion, we need to find a continuum of care,” LaMere said. “We need to get them out of detox and get them into programs. When they come out of detox, somebody needs to be waiting for them.” 

Several western Iowa cities already have outpatient centers for addiction treatment called Jackson Recovery Centers. The Sioux City location has about 150 beds.

Jackson Recovery Centers President and CEO Kermit Dahlen says while they do provide detoxification services for anyone, including Native American and homeless people, most of their beds are full all of the time because they have planned, structured admissions.
 

"It's not that we don’t have services. It’s that there is a better way and a more cost effective way to deal with a population that has recidivism, a high readmission rate.” -Kermit Dahlen, Jackson Recovery Centers

“We’re not set up to take somebody at 2 a.m. when a police officer finds somebody passed out on the street,” Dahlen said.

He continued, “It’s not that we don’t have services. It’s that there is a better way and a more cost effective way to deal with a population that has recidivism, a high readmission rate.”

Dahlen says after a person has detoxed at the planned center in Sioux City, they could go to Jackson to continue their recovery.

Advocates of the Sioux City detox center are still trying to put together a budget and are searching for an agency to run the facility. Ohman says they hope to model it after a detox center in Rapids City, South Dakota that is entirely community funded.

“We really like that because it’s the community coming together to address an issue,” Ohman said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. It’s our community responsibility.”