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Detox plays critical role after drug/alcohol arrests

Brown County Probation Director and Brown County Evaluation Center (BCEC) Board Chairman Les Schultz, left; stands outside the New Ulm Detox Center with BCEC Executive Director Amanda Schuknecht.

In case you’ve ever wondered what the concrete building is at 510 N. Front St. is, it’s the Brown County Evaluation Center Drug Detox Division.

The licensed, privately-owned, non-profit, 24-hour facility is governed by a board of directors comprised of county commissioners from Blue Earth, Brown, Nicollet and Watonwan Counties, Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz, the Lower Sioux Reservation Police Dept., former Brown County Commissioner Charlie Guggisberg and a New Ulm housing representative.

The facility at one time included a juvenile detention center until declining numbers forced that part of the service to close. Juveniles are now sent to detention in Willmar.

“Detox plays a critical role to individuals arrested for alcohol and drug related offenses. Some have acute health issues and jail is not the place for them at the time of arrest,” said Schultz.

“Detox provides the medical supervision needed until people are safe to be released to their home or another location,” Schultz added.

The Brown County Detox Center, a licensed, privately-owned, secure facility, is located at 510 Front Street North. Immediate family only may visit for 10 minutes from 1 to 2 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.

“Detox staff are some of the hardest-working folks around,” Schultz said. “They never know who is coming through their door. They continue to provide professional care and medical observation without hesitation. They are to be commended for their dedication to individuals who are not at their best in life.”

New Ulm Police Chief Dave Borchert talked about the importance of detox.

“It plays a very valuable role in our community, especially for law enforcement,” Borchert said. “We encounter people on a regular basis that are heavily intoxicated from alcohol or illegal drugs, or a combination of both. Often times, detox is law enforcement’s only option to safely manage the person’s condition.”

Borchert said cases of intoxication have risen lately.

“We’ve noticed in recent years the blood alcohol content (BAC) of individuals has really gone up,” Borchert said. “It’s very common for people to be a .30 or .40 BAC today (.08 is the point of legal intoxication in DUI cases). Years ago, that almost never happened. Detox is really important for our community to medically safely manage these community member’s conditions.”

Brown County Detox Center patient rooms include blankets, a pillow and a small chest of drawers.

Borchert praised BCEC Executive Director Amanda Schuknecht for adjusting patient admission standards and procedures.

“Detox simply accepts more patients today than in the past because they are less restrictive and with admission criteria,” Borchert said. “Amanda worked on the admission process and trained detox workers to feel more comfortable with some of the additional challenges. I believe this has resulted in a higher number of patients and really benefitted the community.”

The Brown County Evaluation Center does not accept insulin-dependent diabetics, patients who are actively hallucinating, currently on a suboxone program, or those who have made suicide attempts within the past 10 days.

Wheel-chair bound patients are accepted if they don’t require assistance showering or using the bathroom.

Borchert said the result is more people go to detox to obtain necessary care instead of jail.

“Law enforcement has really noticed this change and is very appreciative,” Borchert said. “It’s tough to find options at 2 a.m. with an individual in police custody that is ‘too drunk for detox.'”

Schuknecht said she thinks detox is able to handle more people now and aid law enforcement these days.

“We’re seeing more people with higher blood alcohol levels and more of a drug mixture including LSD, heroin and methamphetamines, sometimes mixed with alcohol,” she said.

“I think we’re doing a really good job building relationships with hospitals and law enforcement,” Schuknecht said. “We provide transportation, taking that burden off law enforcement. Sometimes people don’t understand what detox is. We treat people with dignity and compassion. We are not part of the criminal justice system. We’re run by a wonderful board of directors that advocate in the best interest of staff and patients.”

Schuknecht said most detox patients come from Mankato and stay for two or three days.

“Our task is to get people to feel better, become stable and have no after-affects. We want to help people get through their addiction and get back to their lives,” she said.

Guggisberg said patients were mostly in detox due to alcohol when he was elected to the Brown County Board of Commissioners in 1986.

Guggisberg said he hopes “detox can stay open and help people stay safe by being able to pay wages to attract people (workers).”

The 16-bed, locked facility provides services to people age 13 and older from Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock, Scott, Sibley and Watonwan Counties. Partial contract counties include Cottonwood, Jackson and Renville.

Referrals are generally made by police departments, hospital emergency rooms, social service agencies and voluntary admissions. If you want to make a referral, call 507-359-9111. A staff member will ask health and chemical abuse questions to determine if the referral is appropriate for the New Ulm facility.

Anyone interested in working at detox is encouraged to visit browncountydetox.com

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