Closure of detox center could lead to exposure deaths near Navajo Nation

December 31, 2011

Police in Page, Arizona, are worried about people freezing to death after a detox center on the border of the Navajo Nation closed. From Flagstaff, Laurel Morales reports.

LAUREL MORALES: State budget cuts and unexpectedly low enrollment numbers at the detox center forced the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority to pull its funding. But police say the number of deaths from exposure to the cold had dropped since the detox center opened 15 years ago -- from about a dozen deaths a year to around three. Lieutenant James Bartell says now if police find someone passed out, they have few options.

JAMES BARTELL: We send them on their way to where they wonder on their way or they find a place to wait out the night a convenience store or they find an open door at a motel and hide in the stairwells.

LAUREL MORALES: If they’re unable to wake up, police will call them an ambulance. The sale and consumption of alcohol on the Navajo Nation is banned in most places. Police say up to 95 percent of those at the detox center in Page were American Indian.

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