Mecklenburg County is hoping to reopen its drug and alcohol treatment program to court-ordered patients more than a month after the state ordered them to stop.
"It was a late Friday afternoon. They said we need to stop taking involuntaries," said Kim Phillips, director of the Substance Abuse Services Center -- known to many simply as detox.
Involuntaries are those people -- about 150 a year -- ordered by a judge to get substance abuse treatment.
The center had been treating involuntaries, along with voluntary patients, for more than 20 years, and Phillips said the state's order to stop accepting the court-ordered patients came as a shock, especially since the nearest alternatives are at least an hour and a half from Charlotte.
"I just feel for the family members who are just trying to get help for their loved ones, and our hands are tied," Phillips said Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services suggested late Tuesday that the order to close down part of the program should not have come as a surprise to county officials.
She said the state had identified problems with the detox facility in 2010 -- specifically that the facility did not have a plan to train staff on using restraints on patients who might be volatile, and the fact that the facility does not have a physician on site.
The spokeswoman did confirm that Mecklenburg County had hand-delivered a new application on Tuesday to treat involuntarily committed patients, but she could not say how long it would take for state officials to review it.