Despite concerns raised by Greenfield citizens at a recent meeting of the village’s council, local treatment clinic director Gena Bates said she hopes a residential treatment center slated to open in the village in October will have a positive impact on the opiate epidemic.
The Greenfield facility, formerly an outpatient clinic operated by the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center, is one of two properties set to become residential drug treatment facilities designed for addicts seeking intensive recovery services.
Bates, clinic director at the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center in Hillsboro, told The Times-Gazette that organizers hope the 12-bed clinic will open its doors in October.
Family Recovery Services Counseling CEO Roger Cheesbro said FRS has purchased a building in the Belfast area from Highland County Community Action, and is currently in the certification process to go ahead with renovations for a 16-bed facility there.
“These are people who would not be successful in outpatient services for addressing their addiction,” Cheesbro said. “There are a lot of factors that go into this… Currently, with the outpatient services we offer now, clients are admitted to various levels of intensive care. So, depending on use history, any emotional or physical issues, where they are in terms of their motivation for recovery, the ‘recovery capital’ or assets they have that will be helpful in their life to help maintain recovery, as well as what kind of environment they live in, all these things are gone over and reviewed in a medical environment. Folks in the residential facility would be the ones who don’t have an environment that promotes recovery, they’ve had difficulty in the past obtaining and maintaining sobriety.”
Cheesbro said he, too, believes residential treatment facilities are vital to fighting the drug problem.
“We’re hoping that it will have a significant impact currently in working with other community stakeholders, other folks involved in addressing the opioid problems we have locally,” he said. “Many of the folks from Highland County are having to be engaged in these types of services in the surrounding counties, like Scioto, Ross, et cetera… We’re very excited about the possibility of having these services close to home, and the possibilities for building a recover-oriented community.”
Bates told The Times-Gazette the Greenfield facility will generally house clients for a 30-day time frame, although that’s flexible depending on the client’s needs, and Cheesbro said the Belfast clinic would serve clients anywhere from 45-120 days.
From there, clients at both clinics would enter outpatient treatment.
Both FRS and the SPVMHC hope to develop “step-down” programs for those transitioning from inpatient to outpatient treatment.
“Hopefully, what we can move toward is transitional types of housing, finding or creating housing for individuals who still don’t have that environment or place to go where they can be sober,” Cheesbro said.
Bates said she hopes education and positive experiences will dispel concerns brought up by citizens at a recent meeting of Greenfield village council.
“There has been some pushback, I guess you could say, from the community,” Bates told The Times-Gazette. “I’m really hoping with continued education and working on the project, we’ll get some community support.”
Dominant among the worries voiced by council members during a recent meeting was the facility’s proximity to the Head Start program at the armory located just up the block.
The facility, formerly the Greenfield branch of Highland County District Library, sits just west of Save A Lot on the east end of Jefferson Street.
Council chair Betty Jackman said council received two letters stating concerns about the facility, one from parents of children in the Head Start program, and another by a business owner in the same block.
While council members made it clear that they support people receiving help, there are concerns in regard to the clinic that need to be addressed, such as the fact that even though those in the program are confined to the facility and not allowed to leave without being accompanied by a staff member, they are not forced to stay.
Other concerns included the location, having that concentration of “criminals” in one area, the number of staff on hand at any given time, the village’s ability to have a say in whether the facility can exist, and the village’s recourse should there be problems.
According to city manager Ron Coffey, he and law director Brian Zets could find nothing in the “current coding” to prevent the clinic from opening up.
Council member Chris Borreson made a motion that Zets explore Greenfield’s options on the matter. Council member Brenda Losey was the only dissenting vote on the motion.
Bates said the facility will be closed-door, and while it’s hardly incarceration, supervision will be rigorous.
“I think one of the misconceptions is that the people in treatment there are just going to be running around,” she said. “It will be a locked facility, and if they leave, they’ll have an escort. If they leave without an escort, they’ll be removed from the program.”
Bates added that those who are eligible will begin Vivitrol treatment when they’re admitted, which removes the effects of opiates and alcohol intoxication.
Judge David McKenna of Hillsboro Municipal Court spoke out on the topic at a recent meeting of the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition, saying communities in Highland County need more drug treatment options or “bigger graveyards,” as opiate overdose rates continue to break records.
The judge said jail “isn’t a cure for drugs,” although sometimes it’s necessary to protect the public or the prisoner for a time.
“The addicts don’t get cured in the jail,” McKenna said. “They just throw up on the floor and (Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera’s) people clean it up.”
Reach David Wright 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.