Denver Health Opens Colorado's First Licensed Adolescent Detoxification Facility

Offers patients ages 17 & under withdrawal management in a safe environment


June 29, 2023

DENVER — In Colorado, fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise as well as the need for support for adolescents struggling with substance use disorder. In response to this growing need, Denver Health has opened the state’s first licensed detoxification facility for adolescents to help them withdrawal in a safe environment under the care of skilled medical, psychiatric, and nursing teams. The facility treats patients ages 17 and under, and its withdrawal management program works in conjunction with Denver Health’s Substance Abuse Treatment, Education and Prevention (STEP) Program, which provides therapeutic support for young adults with substance use disorder.

“When your child is suffering, all you can think about is how to help them. Denver Health’s new treatment facility serves as an important tool in offering adolescents stability and connecting them to community resources,” said Christian Thurstone, MD, Director of Behavioral Health Services. “Before the facility opened, adolescents were treated in an outpatient setting and sent home with educational materials about overcoming addiction. Now, we’re able to provide a full continuum of care through hospitalization and extending that support when they are discharged by enrolling them in Denver Health’s STEP Program.”

Withdrawal management at the inpatient facility is developmentally tailored to adolescents to engage them in their treatment through tactics like creative art and to incentivize them to stay sober like rewarding a patient’s negative drug screening with their favorite treat. As part of the collaborative effort, guardians and families are also encouraged to engage in their child’s treatment. An interdisciplinary team provides multiple opportunities through phone/video calls, in-person meetings, family therapy, and safety planning.

Once discharged, Denver Health’s STEP Program provides adolescents with additional therapeutic support to feel comfortable sharing painful emotions and experiences. Therapists meet patients where they are and support them in achieving their self-identified goals. The program is also offered at eight of Denver Health’s school-based health centers embedded in Denver Public Schools.


About Denver Health

Denver Health is a comprehensive health and hospital system that provides high-quality care for everyone in the community, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. We deliver medical care to one-third of Denver’s population, proudly serving as the city’s safety-net hospital and providing preventive, primary and acute care services. For more than 160 years, Denver Health has been deeply rooted in the health and well-being of the community, providing high-quality clinical care, top-notch education and training for health care workers, and furthering critical research to benefit our patients. We are guided by our mission to serve our community with excellence, compassion, and stewardship as we work to ensure all people have access to the care and programs they need to be happy, healthy and successful.

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