Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Business is slow at the sleep off program these days.
CBJ Manager Rorie Watt said 50-percent of the time there is nobody using the service. Most of the credit for the decline goes to Housing First and the Forget Me Not Manor that targeted the most in need people in Juneau.
The CBJ budgeted $1.5 million in tobacco and alcohol taxes each year to Bartlett Regional Hospital for the program. It is located at the Rainforest Recovery Center and helps people that who are too inebriated to care for themselves. It gives them a safe place to sleep it off. There were 41 total bed days in January.
Watt estimated that about beds are used 20-25 percent of the time.
"We are trying to find a more efficient use of the money. I can't see us not providing some kind of sleep off program."
Capital City Fire Rescue could benefit by additional staffing to help response services and provide support during emergencies. One suggestion is the creation of a basic life support ambulance. Watt suggested budgeting $800,000 to CCFR to provide the service.
Assembly member Loren Jones said the service has been provided since 1975. He worried about legal liabilities should something happen to a patient. "This is serious business. The Fire Department is the wrong place. You need to talk to the hospital for them to do their responsibility toward health care for Juneau and not pawn it off on the Fire Department."
Jones said the city has had a better response than any community and going to the fire department would ruin that. "The hospital needs to better staff Rainforest Recovery. If they need staff they can peel people off. You are barking up the wrong tree going to the fire department."
Watt said they have not got much use of public dollars for the sleep off. He suggested the Assembly discuss the issue with the Bartlett Hospital Board. "We are paying $1,000 per night. I know that dollars are scarce."
He said it is a lot of money for a small amount of service and is one of the least efficient things the CBJ does, "I'm looking for a way where the public gets a better bang for the buck."
One possible location is the modular trailer at the Glacier Station. He noted the move would give Rainforest Recovery more space to provide addiction and recovery services to the community.
Assembly member Rob Edwardson said the sleep off center is a safety valve. He said it is a legal requirement. He also questioned whether the numbers for the loss in sleep off would continue to decline, "I don't know if this is a trend that will last forever."
Assembly member Wade Bryson said some firemen are opposed to bringing in this service to the fire department. He said the CBJ plans to demolish the warming center this summer. There were 41 nights of below freezing temperatures in Juneau in 2018. He supported combining the two services. He also supported using volunteers when available.
"I understand why the hospital is wanting to get rid of this. Everything they can remove reduces operating cost. I can see them wanting to save."
Vice Mayor Maria Gladziszewski said it is good to look at how the CBJ spends their money. "We have no reason to believe he (Watt) is not a good problem solver, he has done that for a lot of things."
Watt said the Bartlett administration does not see the sleep off as a medical service. "On something big and difficult, we have a former Fire Chief, and some expertise, if there is an appetite to work on this issue further, I might suggest a special Assembly sub-committee to get down and dirty with the details."