Center of Hope officially dedicated in Riverton Thursday; New emphasis on alcohol treatment already paying off

(LtoR) Riverton Mayor Ron and First Lady Helen Warpness, County Commissioner Keja Whiteman, VOA President and CEO Jeff Holsinger, VOA Board Vice Chairman Rob Miller and Center of Hope Staff Member Ron Blumenshine gathered for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. (Ernie Over photo) 

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Center of Hope was dedicated in Riverton today with the new name ushering in a new philosophy for what had previously been known as the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center, or the Detox Center. The Volunteers of America-Northern Rockies now owns and operates the center, having taken over management of the facility back in May and ownership in July.

Mayor Ron Warpness noted the change in terminology during his remarks at the dedication ceremony. “This is a welcome breath of fresh air and a positive change,” he said. “Most of us don’t like the word crisis.” At the same time, the Mayor acknowledged the work done by the previous board and director Lisa Amos over the past twelve years. “The need is real,” he said.

And the change has been positive.

Jeff Holsinger, the President and CEO of Volunteers of America, which is based in Sheridan, noted that the program here is not new, but that it has provided VOA “with a wonderful foundation.” Acknowledging that solving the problem of alcohol addition is not easy, Holsinger said the new approach is already paying dividends.  “Since we took over, we have five clients now working their way into treatment. Last year there was a total of seven. In a few months, we’ve already nearly accomplished what was done all of last year. This is a powerful moment,” he said.

VOA’s Division Director Todd Richins noted both the physical changes and the philosophical adjustments that have been incorporated into the new Center of Hope. He said the physical changes included the addition of office spaces within the building, a new counter at the client intake area for added staff security, new paint in and out, a new sign and a new attitude. “We have initiated a therapeutic philosophy which will lead to more treatment options,” he said to the rain drenched crowd huddled under three canopys set up outside of the building’s east side.

A steady rain fell and invitees huddled under cover. (EO)

A steady rain fell and invitees huddled under cover. (EO)

Holsinger also mentioned that in his comments, noting that one of the first things VOA did at the center was bring in a clinician for a new clinical perspective on helping the clients who come in. “We asked the staff what needed to happen, and we’ve done all the quick fixes, he said. Holsinger said the center has been saving peoples lives since day one, and it was the kind of facility that they felt instant synergy with. “I know we needed to be involved, what’s they done here is a miracle, but we’ve lost people too, and we need to do a better job,” he said referring to some clients who had passed away because of complications from their acute alcoholism. “We cannot do this alone, its a community issue, a community endeavor.”

Fremont County Commissioner Keja Whiteman also welcomed the new emphasis of the Center of Hope. “It will bring stronger continuum of services and work to close service gaps in the community.” Noting that the previous board reached out to VOA because of funding difficulties and trying to find sustainability, Whiteman said governmental partnerships have helped. “With our current (national) government in a continual crisis, it is so incredibly important to maintain and serve people in need. This center is an example of local government getting it right and working together to solve a problem,” she said. “We are planting trees here today so future generations will have shade; it’s a long term solution and I am happy today to be here planting trees for the community.”

One of the immediate changes at the facility is the number of beds dedicated to social detoxification. Currently there are 17 mattresses for men for detox, and another half dozen or so for women. But that is changing. With the Center’s new emphasis on treatment and recovery, the social detox area will be reduced to six beds so more long term treatment beds can become available.” The center has been moving in that direction and working with the police departments in Riverton, Lander and the BIA Wind River Police.

Merle Yellow Kidney, the new program director at the Center for Hope, noted the rain falling during the ceremony and said he was thinking “this is a cleansing rain. A fresh start.”

Photos by Ernie Over, click to enlarge: