Treatment center may be overhauled |

Treatment center may be overhauled

Word that the Lovett Recovery Center will soon be run by someone other than Nevada County has staff and former addicts plenty worried.

The treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse houses 19 residents and also functions as a drop-in spot for addicts in all stages of recovery. The site is expected to change in some way if an outside contractor takes over July 1. The question is how much of a change that will be.

The recovery center has been under a financial press since last June, when the county agreed to give some general fund money for the center’s $562,000 budget to take up the slack from state budget cuts.

Monday, the county had representatives from eight different drug rehabilitation programs in the state at a meeting to discuss what will be needed to run the Nevada City facility. Officials and addicts are hoping at least one of them will make a proposal that keeps the recovery house going.

“We’re going to bid on it,” said Jim Phelps, director of Community Recovery Resources, the drug treatment wing of the United Way of Nevada County. “This is a trend around California. It’s not surprising, considering the state of the state.”

“If we don’t accept any of the proposals, we would operate some kind of service out of the building,” said Robert Erickson, the county’s Behavioral Health Department director. “It definitely would not be what’s going on now.”

The worst-case scenario is that the center would close, Erickson said. If that happens, a lot of people would be hurt, according to center employees.

To keep the center open and healthy is extremely important, said Eric Eklund, 37, a former center resident and now a staff member. The recent rash of methamphetamine-related crimes in the area makes that clear, Eklund said.

“It is a major problem in the community, but a lot of us do recover,” Eklund said. We’re not just dope fiends; we have a disease. It’s not just a self-will thing; it’s like cancer. We don’t get rid of it. We keep it in remission.”

Eklund said center alumni prove that it should remain viable. “It’s a huge group. They’re homeowners, lawyers, doctors, it’s your next-door neighbor and you don’t even know it,” Eklund said. “People are looking through angry eyes right now, but this program has saved a lot of lives and families.

“There’s not another inpatient program for men here,” Eklund said. “This gives you time under your belt and a whole different world, with counselors who we have here that are willing to help.”

“Treatment is a lot less expensive than jails,” said Terra Hues, 61, another former addict now working at the center. “People don’t have to get stuck in these lives. People can change.”

Center manager Ginny Poggi said seven full-time and six on-call employees are now wondering about the future of their jobs.

The bid requests sent out by the county to run the center ask for current staffers to be retained. But there is no guarantee that will happen, and existing staff would have to accept a new contractor’s terms of employment.

“The fear of something familiar not being here is the scary point for people,” Poggi said. “Where are we going to find each other when we need each other?”

The requests say the county will still own the building, and any successful bidder will be asked to pay a nominal rent. Proposals from the rehabilitation groups are due Feb. 18.

For the near future, “there will be a continued program in this county,” Poggi said. “We’ll be here until the closing of Lovett or the transfer to whoever is running Lovett.”

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