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Detox facility may get lifeline

City panel calls for measure allowing $25,000 in funding

By Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The Winchester City Council took a tentative step toward throwing a local detox center a financial lifeline on Tuesday.

The council voted 6-3 to have city staffers draft an ordinance that would allow Winchester to give up to an additional $25,000 to the Starting Point Public Inebriate Center.

Located in an old jail on Cameron Street, the center serves both as a place for police to drop off those drunk in public rather than taking them to jail, and a small residential center for recovering addicts.

Money woes in Richmond this year worked their way down to the city level, leading the council to cut more than half of its annual $185,200 contribution to the center.

Such a cut would all but close the center, which has operated on a 24-hour basis for its 30-year history, according to advocates.

Over a month into the new fiscal year, some on the council want to re-think the action.

"I feel that this is so needed. It's a service that the city has provided for years and I think it's a service that the city should continue to provide," said Mayor Elizabeth Minor.

Approving the $25,000 from reserve accounts would throw the center a much needed lifeline while it works to come up with ways to keep the doors open.

"This is a temporary supplement to allow them to work on some of those issues that came forward initially," said Councilman Mike Butler.

Center officials are actively working with Frederick County to find a solution, he said.

"This allows them to do that in an organized and timely fashion," he said.

But the measure was not without controversy.

"I can't support this," said Councilman Milt McInturff. Everyone had a hard time with budgets this year, and the city was no exception. Cuts were made for a reason.

"I've talked to a number of citizens about this. I have a lot of pain in spending their tax dollars for a public facility like this," McInturff said.

It doesn't help the center's case that only seven individuals were responsible for over 500 visits last year.

Councilman John Willingham agreed.

"I would not support any [additional funding for the] residential [program]," he said.

However, he said, the detox program does have merit, so he would support a resolution to "give one more chance to this group, to fund them for the detox portion."

The council will vote on the ordinance drafted by staff at a meeting in the near future.

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