With cutbacks to the number of beds available at the Dane County detox center to take effect soon, Madison’s chief of police recently sent a letter to the county saying the new model is unnecessarily endangering the lives of citizens and calling for an immediate return to the prior levels of staffing.

In a letter sent from MPD Chief Noble Wray to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Wray said members of MPD believe the county has not addressed their objections to the planned changes to Dane County detox adequately. This year, the county plans to reduce maximum capacity at detox to 19 patients when fully staffed on weekends.

The letter said changes to the detox center would force police to administer protective custody to intoxicated individuals at their hospital beds or take them to jail, rather than the historical approach of sending them directly to a detox facility.

As a result of the new plan, the Madison detox facility would no longer be open 24/7 to Dane County residents as it has been in the past. It would instead sit open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and closed Sunday night through Thursday evening, the letter said. In the letter, Wray said he would like an executive order issued to return the county detox levels to what they were in January 2011 before the changes were enacted. Wray said the hours in which the current detox facility is now open provides minimal help for those suffering from alcoholism.

MPD officials contacted would not comment on the impending changes to the detox facility beyond the letter from Wray.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the changes are generally due to tightening budgets and monetary concerns.

As a result of the 2012 Dane County Human Services Budget, the county has reduced the amount of services provided at the detox facility in lieu of higher priorities the city finds more important, Verveer said.

“MPD’s main concern is the negative impact that this will have on police services in the city of Madison and the additional resources that they believe the cutbacks will cause for the police,” Verveer said.

Verveer said under the new plan, police officers will be forced to stand guard with the intoxicated individuals at a Dane County hospital – a measure he said he believed would take officers off the street.

According to Verveer, the detox facility is “desperately needed” for young people and University of Wisconsin students. He also said the medical facility is a necessity that assists both the community and students who have had too much to drink.

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the foremost component of the new plan that raises concern is liability because emergencies services will not be provided at all times.

Resnick also said the issue should have been resolved when the budget was first drafted, but that the problem appears to have been overlooked. He added MPD and citizens are only now beginning to feel the effects of the cutbacks.

“I really hope the city and the county can come together to find an alternative solution, because currently how it’s outlined in the budget is not an acceptable resolution,” Resnick said.