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Residential alcohol treatment center in Superior to close

A Superior inpatient recovery center for people struggling with alcohol abuse will close by mid-July, according to a statement by the Human Development Center.

A Superior inpatient recovery center for people struggling with alcohol abuse will close by mid-July, according to a statement by the Human Development Center.

The 20-bed facility, at 1500 N. 34th St., has housed people undergoing a 30-day residential treatment program whom the center says it will try to serve as outpatients. Those Douglas County clients still requiring residential care for sobriety probably will be sent to facilities in neighboring communities.

"There is a great need in the community for these services, but we can't financially make it work any longer," Jim Gruba, HDC

executive director, said in a statement released Monday. "The total amount of funding provided by state and county is capped, and we've been unable to secure additional funding sources."

He explained that private payers, such as insurers, have failed to fill the widening gap.

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"The payments we receive have not increased, while our expenses have continued to grow," Gruba said. "We got to a point where our expenses far exceeded our revenues."

The center finished 2008 about $250,000 in the red, with about $100,000 of that loss attributable to the Superior inpatient recovery center.

About 12 employees will be affected. While the organization said it hopes to reposition some of these staff members, six to eight people likely will lose work.

To put that in perspective, the Human Development Center employs about 300 people, and the anticipated staff reductions would constitute a 2 to 3 percent cut.

In all, 112 clients were admitted to the inpatient program last year.

The HDC plans to continue outpatient services in Douglas County, including psychiatry, individual and group chemical-dependency treatment, individual, group and family therapy, Community Support Program case management, Jill's Place and a number of family and children's services, many of which are delivered in clients' homes.

But Gruba said outpatient services aren't enough.

"It's going to be impossible to completely replace inpatient care with outpatient programs," he said. "We will do the best we can, but if someone is struggling to stay sober, having them live in a place where no alcohol is allowed and where staff is always on site makes a lot of sense."

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Douglas County will look at sending residents to neighboring communities for help, Patricia Schanen, director of health and human services, said. Those destinations could include Memorial Medical Center in Ashland, the L.E. Libertas Center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., or the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment Inc. in Duluth, which already provides detox services for Douglas County.

Wisconsin generally prefers to keep residents in-state for treatment, according to Dave Longsdorf, Douglas County's director of mental health and treatment of alcohol and other drug addictions.

"But being a border county, we've had to draw on resources in Duluth before, and that continues to be an option," he said.

The closure of the Superior recovery center will leave 8,500 square feet of space available available. Gruba said that ideally, the HDC, which owns the building, would lease the space to another nonprofit.

If no such suitable tenant emerges, he said the agency could look at leasing to a private-sector tenant instead.

The Human Development Center is a private nonprofit community mental-health center established in 1938. It serves residents of Douglas, Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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