Alcohol crisis center to merge July 1 with Sheridan organization

May 14, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The merger has been confirmed and on July 1, the Volunteers of America-Northern Rockies organization will take ownership of the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center. The VOA will begin operating at the center Monday.

"We have made a decision," alcohol crisis board chairman Ron Blumenshine said told the Riverton City Council. "We have signed, sealed and delivered, and we got married yesterday," he added, referring to the May 6 agreement.

"Their board agreed to a management agreement with VOA," Heath Steel, VOA executive vice president of operations, told the council. "Our board voted unanimously."

The VOA, established in Sheridan, is a Christian-based non-profit organization with more than 150 employees who provide substance abuse services, community corrections services, community outreach, veterans services, and services to help the American Indian population specifically.

"We also have ATR (Access to Recovery) funding, (and) we are White Bison certified," Steel said. "We have some contractual relationships that we're able to maximize there, but there's going to have to be a partnership with the city and county and the tribal entities."

The White Bison Wellbriety Certified Treatment program is typically a 35- to 45-day support program that helps prevent relapses and manages social stressors as clients return to their communities.

Funding sources

The Department of Health is the largest funding source to the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center, and Steel said that aid will continue after the merger. VOA requested $12,500 from the City of Riverton, which is in addition to the proposed $100,000 the city could make and another $100,000 VOA would contribute.

"I think we've got an opportunity to build the program within the budget that's there," Steel told the council.

He also said VOA would like to "build the program" with a possible three-way contribution from the county, city and the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

"Our interest all the way along in the synergy here has been to look at how do we expand appropriate level treatment services," Steel said. "And how do we provide a pathway for the clients served in the alcohol detox center."

He added that the new program will work with the Riverton Police Department and the Sheriff's office while providing options for individuals. Gradual changes to the current program would help make the process easier for clients and staff members, Steel said. He said they have also proposed forming a "leadership council" that would adopt the members of the center's current board.

Center's hard work

Steel commended the crisis center for the work it has done in Riverton.

"They've done very well with very little for a very long time, (and) generally when you're going into a merger, you're losing good folks --here you're gaining good folks," Steel said.

Steel said Lisa Amos, the executive director at the crisis center, has been hired as the director of wellness in Sheridan.

"She remains in the family but transitions to a different location," he said, adding that a Sheridan division director will be coming to Riverton as a full-time employee.

"I have to say they do a ton with the resources they have," council member Eric Heiser said. "I'm very excited to see that partnership take place, and I think the community should be excited about it as well."

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