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La Plata County could receive almost $2 million in funding for substance abuse treatment center

Appropriations bills also include money for programs at Fort Lewis College
La Plata County plans to do a feasibility study to determine if a substance abuse treatment center would be possible. Federal funding to help pay for such a center would be a “down payment” of sorts if a treatment center were feasible.

Nearly $2 million in federal funding for a substance abuse treatment center in La Plata County has been included in initial versions of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2023. That is in addition to $1.7 million for two programs at Fort Lewis College.

The funding is part of $92 million for projects across Colorado that have been included in initial versions of the appropriations bills. The individual funding items were announced last week by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.

Ted Holteen, spokesman for La Plata County, said the $1.8 million for a substance abuse treatment center follows $150,000 the county received for a feasibility study for the center. He said if the county were to receive the money from the final version of the appropriations bills, it would be a “down payment” for the facility, pending the results of the feasibility study.

“We just kind of wanted to get our foot in the door and keep our foot in the door to make sure that we didn’t miss out on any possible funding that would come down the road,” he said.

If the results of the feasibility study come back satisfactory, Holteen said the county is looking at potentially using the now vacant Robert E. DeNier Youth Services Center. Turning it into a treatment center would require renovations to make it look and feel less like a jail, he said.

Holteen said the feasibility study will start in late September or October and will look at the long-term sustainability of a treatment center, including how it would be paid for on an ongoing basis. Until then, he said the treatment facility is just a possibility.

Also included in the funding were two requests for programs at FLC for the CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative program and the Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship program. They were allocated $1.3 million and $401,000, respectively. The Collaborative Nursing Workforce program is a partnership with the University of Colorado College of Nursing and is expected to start in fall 2023.

Every year, Congress votes on appropriations bills that provide money to specific programs, agencies and departments in the federal government. Funding is requested through the Congressionally Directed Spending Process, and then senators can submit those projects to be considered in one of the nine annual funding bills that allow requests from the CDS process. The request for funding for the treatment center was made through Hickenlooper’s office; the requests for Fort Lewis College programs were made jointly by Bennet and Hickenlooper.

The House and the Senate must each negotiate their respective bills and vote on them before the funding becomes law. The Senate is expected to vote on the bills by the end of the year as either a combined package or individual bills.

“If a treatment center is something that can be done, you know, setting it up is one thing and then maintaining it with ongoing costs is another,” Holteen said. “Once that study is finished, we want (the funding) to at least be in line.”

​​Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at nheller@durangoherald.com.

An earlier version of this story erred in saying all three requests for funding in La Plata County were made through U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper’s office. The two requests for funding for Fort Lewis College programs were made jointly by Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

An earlier version of this story misstated the official name of the CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative program. Incorrect information was give to the Herald.

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