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WATERLOO — It used to be that if patients in the Cedar Valley needed to get clean from alcohol or drugs, their only choice might be a hospital.

Now, with beds donated from UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown, Pathways Behavioral Services offers those patients another option with a new, nine-bed detox center.

“We have wanted to do this forever,” said Chris Hoffman, Pathways executive director.

The $900,000, 3,200-square-foot addition to Pathways on University Avenue opened Feb. 16. It provides a space where people who are new to getting clean can do so with the help of medical professionals, said director of nursing Merri Koch.

“We have had a lot of phone calls,” she said. “I figure this unit is needed in the Cedar Valley.”

The unit includes four rooms with two beds each, divided by gender — plus a fifth room with a single bed. There’s also a shared common area with couches, a kitchen and a television. Oral medication is dispensed behind a locked door, and there’s a shower room because each client admitted takes a shower first, then surrenders their possessions and changes into scrubs, said Koch.

Clients aren’t automatically admitted to the detox center, said Koch. The unit is meant for those who have been under the influence of their particular substance within the last 24 to 48 hours. They’re scored on a list of criteria — if they’re too far gone or need intravenous medication, they’re routed to the emergency room instead.

For those admitted, detox is a higher level than the residential unit at Pathways.

“They’re going through withdrawals, and we take care of that with medication,” Koch said.

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Once a patient has gone through the detoxification process and is able, Koch and others will talk to them about continuing at Pathways’ residential unit down the hall, where patients go into a 28-day therapy program. Patients who can’t do that are also given the option for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Having the detox and residential units connected increases patients’ chances of staying clean, said Hoffman.

“The statistics are, if your detox center is connected to your residential center, there’s a 75 percent success rate,” Hoffman said. “If not, it’s only a 15 percent success rate.”

Having medical staff present regularly is also a bonus, he said.

“We’ve had a medical director forever, but on a daily basis we had minimal medical staffing,” Hoffman said.

The detox unit is now Pathways’ “most acute level of service right now,” he added, noting Pathways has offices there as well as downtown Waterloo, Independence, Waverly, Allison and Fredericksburg. Pathways also began medication assisted treatment for opioid users, and is up to 76 patients who come in for doses six days per week.

“Our goal is to help some of that congestion that happens in hospitals,” said Koch.

Those wanting more information about the detox center can call Pathways at 235-4498.

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Staff Writer

Staff writer at The Courier 2005 (college intern), 2007-2012, 2015-present. Graduate of UNI 2006. Three-time Iowa APME award winner (investigative reporting 2008, lifestyle feature 2016, business feature 2018)

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