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New detox facility in San Luis Obispo to fight against County’s drug problem

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Posted at 2:21 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 17:21:04-04

An 8-10 bed withdrawal treatment facility, formerly known as a detox facility, is under construction next to 40 Prado Homeless Services Center in San Luis Obispo. KSBY spoke with the driving force behind the project and a homeless woman living in San Luis Obispo on how this new service will benefit the county.

"Heroin makes you very sick. Some of these people are curled up in a ball, crying,” said Janae, a San Luis Obispo homeless resident. “I don’t want to go back. Nobody wants to go back to that.”

She’s been there. The San Luis Obispo resident is homeless but says she's been clean off meth for more than three decades.

A withdrawal treatment facility coming to 34 Prado, right next to 40 Prado is exactly what San Luis Obispo County has needed for decades, Deputy Director for CAPSLO, Grace McIntosh, told KSBY.

"Our community has wanted this for 35-40 years," said McIntosh.

The City of San Luis Obispo itself has a large number of homeless people. John Klevins, a social worker with the SLO Community Action Team, told KSBY the population has more than likely doubled since a 2019 survey revealed nearly 500 homeless people in the city.

75% of the people that struggle finding a home have substance abuse issues, mental health issues, or a combination of the two.

"Having it in town and having it within 40 Prado is no less than a miracle for the community," said Klevins.

34 Prado is a much-needed facility for those in need of serious help, but one obstacle that could arise is actually getting those that truly need the treatment into the beds. KSBY asked Klevins and McIntosh how they plan to get those with drug addictions to voluntarily admit themselves to 34 Prado.

"That's the county's question right now,” said McIntosh. “I know that the county and the cities are working very closely to come up with a regional approach to the issue of the unhoused and how best to serve them and meet their needs, while also honoring their right to choose, which is a very big part of this equation."

"With addicts, it's an individual thing. All you can do is offer the service. What it is, is repeatedly offering the service,” said Klevins.If they feel comfortable with the outcomes that are happening in their lives, based on the behaviors that they have - based on the substance abuse - if they're okay with it, it's not going to change. It's the people that have made the choice to create change and want a different trajectory in their lives."

You might be sitting at home thinking that this doesn't, or will never, affect you, but McIntosh says to never say never.

"This is not someone else's issue; this is our issue because this could be somebody's brother or son or mother,” said McIntosh. “A lot of people think, 'Oh, that would never happen to me.' Never say never. There are many of us who never thought that our loved ones would end up homeless, and they did."

Anyone in San Luis Obispo County with a drug or mental health issue can be admitted to the withdrawal treatment facility that's on pace to open its doors at the end of July. CAPSLO estimates, depending on the patients' length of stay, around 200 people could receive care annually through the facility.

Building costs were originally around $1 million, but McIntosh says delays and the price of lumber and labor bumped it up to $1.67 million. McIntosh says operational costs will be covered by reimbursement from Medi-Cal.