Sauk County addiction recovery center set to close

Tellurian expanding in response
Sauk County addiction recovery center set to close

The closure of an addiction recovery center in Sauk County has some patients concerned for the future.

SSM Health is closing its Baraboo Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on June 15.

“When I needed help, they were there,” Baraboo resident Daniel Koepke said. “If you take that away, I would be dead right now.”

A former alcoholic for more than 10 years, Koepke credits the SSM recovery center with setting him on the right path.

“I couldn’t walk upstairs. I could barely walk a block,” he said. “It’s a disease.”

Koepke thinks it’s only fair that same opportunity exists for others who are astray, and believes it’s SSM’s moral duty to keep the facility open.

“If it were a cancer unit, they would find a way to keep that open,” he said.

Melanie Platt-Gibson, SSM marketing and communications specialist, said changing government regulations and a lack of skilled staff members to hire play into the center closing.

“Wisconsin requires you to have, for example, 60 hours available for mental health counselors,” she said. “With our inability to get the number of counselors we need, that puts a damper on what we can do.”

Combine that with low reimbursement rates from programs such as Badger Care, and Platt-Gibson said keeping the facility open isn’t feasible.

“It is so far below what the actual cost of treatment is,” she said.

“We realize there’s going to be a need, and we hope to fill that need in the community,” said Kevin Florek, president and CEO of Tellurian, which is expanding its existing Baraboo addiction services in response to the SSM center closing.

“So we’re adding counselors; we’re adding outpatient groups; we’re adding day-treatment groups,” Florek said. “So, we’re making a big commitment to that community.”

“Of course, I want them to help as much as they can,” Koepke said. “But I think we should have as many resources as possible.”

While Koepke is happy Tellurian is stepping up to help, he still thinks closing the SSM addiction recovery center will leave a gap, and he’s hoping it can stay open for others.

“It’s not for me,” he said. “It’s for the next person that finds themselves in the hospital with nowhere to go.”

According to SSM, of the 35 patients currently at the treatment facility, the majority will graduate before it closes. SSM is partnering with Sauk County and others, including Tellurian, to create customized plans for the others.