ELKINS - The Appalachian Community Health Center's Public Inebriate Shelter in Elkins has been closed due to a lack of funding, officials said.
"Essentially, we are in a situation where the shelter will have to fund itself," said Richard Kiley of the Appalachian Community Health Center.
The shelter was designed to provide a safe place for people under the influence to stay if they couldn't make it home on their own, he said. Located on Main Street in Elkins since 1983, it was funded as part of a legislative measure in the West Virginia State Code. When the legislation was changed in 2013, the state was no longer required to maintain it.
As of Dec. 31, the shelter has been closed. The shelter was operating on a budget of $39,000 per year.
Kiley said there is a need for the shelter.
"There was a case where a man was taken to the jail for being intoxicated and ended up hanging himself," he said. "That's where the idea for a shelter came from. It was decided that it wasn't right to treat someone with addiction like that. This provided them with a safe place to go."
Part of the reason for loss of funding could be a lack of use over the years. Kiley said that in recent years the shelter was averaging between 45-56 people per year.
The shelter also had five staff members and one supervisor, who, Kiley said, were on call at all times.
"It was a very big benefit to the community," Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said. "It prevented us from taking people to the jail. Officers can drop an individual off at the shelter, and then get back on the road working again."
"Right now, the options are for an individual to go to jail, the emergency room, or to be brought back to his residence," said Kiley. "But that brings it's own issues because usually a public intoxication offense tends to lead to other offenses."
Scott Villers, administrator of the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail, said the jail does not take people for a public intoxiation charge only. They have to have another jailable offense, he said.
"There are almost always other charges with public intoxication," said Brady. "They range from any number of offenses. The shelter worked as a tool for police and the public. This is something that law enforcement is going to have to get used to."
Contact Chad Clem by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.