Anchorage treatment center can now commit alcoholics

Alcoholics are initially committed for 48 hours with a 30-day extension if ordered by a judge

Posted: Friday, November 06, 2009

ANCHORAGE- The state law used to commit mental patients against their will is now being used to hold alcoholics at a new Anchorage treatment center.

The involuntary commitment provision has been allowed for years under state law, specifically Title 47, which is used to commit people for psychiatric treatment at the state mental hospital. But until this year, the state didn't provide any funding to force alcoholics or addicts to get sober.

The Anchorage Daily News reports alcoholics are initially committed for 48 hours with a 30-day extension if ordered by a judge.

Robert Heffle, director of the new Salvation's Army Clitheroe Center near Stevens International Airport, said six people are staying at the facility beyond the court-ordered 30 days for treatment. The Clitheroe Center began treatment services in July and detox in September, and Heffle said 11 people have come through the new unit.

At the center's grand opening Wednesday, the Salvation Army presented State Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, with a plague. He worked on the project for years, helping to piece together $1 million in state funding.

Ellis said state Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, who chairs the finance subcommittee for corrections, was a key supporter and the state Legislature put partisan politics aside for the project.

Melissa Stone, director of the state Division of Behavioral Health, said she used to run a private agency and was often frustrated in her efforts to save the lives of self-destructive alcoholics.

The new project will need to be assessed and clients tracked to see if it works, she said.

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