- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- AT ALL COSTS : For counselor Kelly Meyer (left), executive director Michael Axelrod, and counselor Ben Jacobson (right), keeping the county’s only licensed residential detox center open is an ongoing battle.
The staff at Project Amend recently received a $20,000 public health grant from the county, but there are two problems. First, the funds won’t be distributed until late August. Second, the nonprofit facility is already months behind on rent. Furthermore, the grant is only about the size of the facility’s monthly budget.
“We’re desperate and in danger of going out of business. Our reality is, come the 30th, we’re screwed,” Michael Axelrod, the executive director, told New Times. “Drug and Alcohol Services doesn’t do residential detox. This little ramshackle old building you’re looking at, we’re it for residential treatment in this whole county—and we’re totally supported by our program fees and help from the community.”
Project Amend gets a mix of voluntary and court-ordered male patients walking through their doors. But at the moment, the center has more vacancies than clients. Does that mean that SLO County has less people in need of treatment? Hardly.
“I think sometimes the probation department [and] the public defenders, just assume that we’re expensive and people can’t afford it. But I encourage them to just talk to me,” Axelrod said, admitting that though the facility needs to pay bills, people serious about seeking treatment are not turned away for lack of funds. And according to Axelrod, just two or three clients paying a portion of the fee would be enough to get the facility through to August.
“Turnover in our facility is quick and our biggest problem is getting the word out that we’re here,” Craig Ainsworth, the president of project’s board of directors, said. “I think people fail to realize we offer services at a fraction of the cost of like-facilities in other counties.”
According to SLO County Drug and Alcohol Services Director Star Graber, there are roughly 1,500 county residents in treatment at any time, more than 60 percent of whom are males. Graber said resources wasted in transporting people out of the county for treatment could be better used supporting such facilities as Project Amend.
“One of the things I like about them is that they are a licensed residential facility that delivers a higher level of care,” she said. “There are other sober living environments for men, but many do not provide as much accountability and treatment, and are much farther away.”
“We believe we’re doing good work and we keep thinking it’s just going to work out, every month,” Axelrod said. “This is not our darkest hour. It’s getting there, but not the darkest hour—yet.”
Tax-deductible donations are sought. Project Amend can be reached at 782-9600, or visit project