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Friday, July 6, 2012

Tipping Point?

I've mentioned my concern before that Duluth is close to reaching the unhealthy tipping point for half way houses, group homes, treatment centers, etc. These housing units put additional pressure on our EMS, fire and police.  More importantly they have an impact on our neighborhoods, especially when they are poorly managed.

I understand the need for supportive housing units, however the high density of this type of housing in Duluth seems out of line with similar cities in the mid-west .  Since we are the largest metro area for many miles, have excellent public transportation, housing and are the hub of social services, we are the natural fit for supportive housing units.  That said, the time is here for us to seriously study where the tipping point is for us to maintain healthy neighborhoods and business districts. 

Here is a link to the latest proposed supportive housing unit.


  1. What's on the other side of the tipping point?

  2. While there may be certain facilities that utilize emergency services, this is "painting" with a very broad brush. In fact, the impact on emergency and public safety services is dramatically reduced for individuals entering residential chemical dependency treatment programs, sober housing, and supportive housing. Those numbers have been thoroughly documented here and elsewhere, as I am certain you are aware.

    The number of residential facilities for developmentally disabled, traumatic brain injuries,and so forth are not based on politics or philosophy, but economics. It is purely a supply and demand situation. None of these facilities would survive without customers and it is dramatically more cost-effective both from an operational and community perspective than the alternatives. We do not live in a city-state, but absolutely must manage these issues as a geographic region.

    Finally, as many as 80% of alcoholics and addicts never access treatment at all. Many end up housed at taxpayer expense in correctinal facilities. We are currently spending nearly $1.5 million to house inmates from of St. Louis County jail in other counties, for example. Just last week I met with the Cloquet Hospital, Carlton Co. Sherrif, Fond du Lac police, and emergency services. The lack of availability of mental health crises beds locally has them driving to Grand Forks and Austin, by ambulance. Imagine the cost and disruption to local public safety!

    We have major issues with drug addiction and alcoholism in this community yet have added no new treatment beds for over a decade. This is not a new issue for our community. I have been carefully observing trends in the addiction field in Duluth for 40 years. The closure of the State Hospitals, demolition of almost 1,000 SRO units, and the nearly total absence of casual labor has forced hundreds of Duluthians into homelessness along with any problems they may have. Now that's a tipping point!

    As you know, our agency specifically has worked closely with the Duluth Police, local courts, hospitals, and social services to help improve the public health and safety of the community in which we live and were we were created 50 years ago. I hope to continue that cooperative relationship based on respect for our mutual challenges and shared goals.

    Gary P. Olson, CEO
    Center for Alcohol & Drug Treatment

  3. Hi Gary,

    Good points indeed and we do enjoy a very good relationship with your agency. If other entities built relationships and managed their programs like you, I would have less of a concern. You hit on an important point regarding the changes to our sytems over the last 40 years. Many of the issues are associated with the State's decision to close hospitals and demolition of SRO's. My concern though, is our neighborhoods. Is there a tipping point with high density supportive housing? I don't have facts either way, but there are individuals who study this and we need to examine their research and ideas on what keeps neighborhoods healthy....

  4. I think you have a valid point for community safety issues and I have heard that my current landlord intends to make an eight person apartment complex into a group home. It is very lucrative to do so but are the goverances for group homes only county services? I know of a resident of a group home that was abused by staff there too and because of a mental illness wasn't a reliable witness for herself. There also is lots of violence and drug use and repetitive calls to homes that you have to deal with. I'm sure the local community would be up in arms as well with a London Road group home here as it brings many on medicine with poor judgement to the area. We have too many group homes with problems now. I see the proposed one being another one.