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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Idaho

Boise officials point to need for detox center for addicts

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – Officials say a two-county heroin bust illustrates the need for, and lack of, detoxification facilities in town.

On Wednesday, police announced the arrests of 10 people they suspect were operating three separate trafficking rings dealing 73 pounds of heroin a year for the past several years.

Officials say the big, yet temporary dent in the heroin supply means several addicts may experience the nasty withdrawal symptoms of insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, but will have nowhere locally to go for treatment.

Charlotte Lanier, a Boise resident, lost her son, Jack, to a heroin overdose last year. She said she was often frustrated by the lack of local detox facilities during his struggle to stay clean.

“Detox in a home is a mess … it’s horrible,” she said. “If the police made the dent they said they did, there are going to be a lot of people suffering at this point.”

She has been helping a 17-year-old addict recover from heroin, and said since Thursday has received several more calls for help.

Options for detoxification locations, other than a parent’s home, are basically the emergency room and jail.

“And neither is appropriate for someone to sober up,” said Michael Zuzel, spokesman for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

Addicts need a separate place in Boise where they can get basic medical care to recover, said Melanie Curtis, the executive director of Supportive Housing and Innovative Partnerships, a nonprofit that helps recovering alcoholics and drug addicts find housing and get support.

“Research has shown that addicts who receive medical treatment during detox are much more successful in staying clean,” she said. “When I heard about (the bust), I was glad to hear it happened. But the other side is the need for treatment.”

Heroin withdrawal is like a bad flu with uncomfortable symptoms, said Po Huang, medical director of the emergency room at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. He said the detoxification services in Boise should also address alcohol and methamphetamine.

Local hospitals will probably see more people who may try and get painkillers to help with withdrawal symptoms, he said. It’s too soon after Wednesday’s bust to determine an increase in withdrawal cases at local hospitals, he said.

A 2002 Boise State University study shows more than 300 people a year detoxify in emergency rooms, the Ada County Jail or through social service agencies. The county’s picks up the tab, Ada County Commissioner Fred Tilman said.

Advocates of a Boise detox center are looking for a government agency to help cover its estimated $5 million costs, but Zuzel said there is little federal funding available.

He said the city could underwrite costs with a private or public venture.

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