TELLURIDE (AP) – Drunkenness is bringing on a big headache for a ski town where people come to party. The problem in Telluride is that there is no place to put rowdy overimbibers.
San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters has asked his county commissioners and local medical professionals to help come up with a solution to the growing struggle of handling drunks in a resort with no detox center.
When they are out of control, they usually are hauled off to the San Miguel County jail 20 minutes west of Telluride. But the jail is not a good place for the simply plastered – they usually aren’t under arrest, and that creates a liability issue. Keeping them in jail also necessitates hiring a medical professional to come to the jail to “baby-sit.”
The only medical facility in the area, the Telluride Medical Center, isn’t equipped to take them. The center can screen drunks for medical issues, but it has only five emergency-room beds and no place for overnight stays.
The closest detox centers are in Durango and Grand Junction.
“We have no place to put these people,” Masters said.
Some small communities ignore the liability issue because they can’t afford detox units and have no other options. In resort towns where visiting partiers are prone to getting out-of-control, drunks often are “baby-sat” at jails.
Crested Butte drunks go to a special cell for the intoxicated at the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office. In Steamboat Springs, the Routt County Jail has a drunk cell and on-call detox specialist. In Aspen, a two-bed detox center opened earlier this year.
Dr. Diana Koelliker, director of the emergency room at the Telluride clinic, said unruly drunks can be a real dilemma.
“We can’t just let them wander out on the streets,” she said.
The numbers of drunks needing a hold in this county of 8,000 residents amounts to only about 30 a year, but that represents an annual doubling of troublesome drunks in the last five years. Most are out-of-towners who may be suffering the double-whammy of too much booze in the buzz-enhancing high altitude and who have no sober adult to take over their care.
“It’s a real problem. You’re right. We are scratching our heads,” San Miguel County administrator Lynn Black said.
She said the county is planning to seek grant funding to study the feasibility of building a small detox center at the medical center when it expands in five to 10 years. In the meantime, the county is considering building a temporary “drunk tank” at the sheriff’s office
San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May said the county also will be studying how other rural communities deal with the issue.