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Neighbors oppose upscale rehab facility in south Augusta

Monday, Aug 5, 2013 7:31 PM
Last updated 11:46 PM
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Esther Stembridge faced her own problems with drugs and alcohol but got clean in 1986 before her children were born. She sees the need for treatment facilities like the upscale one being proposed off Bennock Mill Road in south Augusta where she lives but that doesn’t mean she won’t stop fighting to keep it out.

“We just don’t want it on our neighborhood,” Stembridge said. “We just don’t want it in our backyard.”

After more than an hour of lobbing questions at proponents for the Georgia Recovery Center for Impaired Professionals during a hearing Monday of the Augusta Planning Commission, many of her neighbors did not sound convinced that the residential treatment center would not be a potential danger and disruption to their quiet, rural area. The hearing was required by Georgia law and the actual zoning hearing cannot take place for at least six months.

Many who packed the Augusta Commission chamber were among the more than 300 who had signed a petition opposing a “halfway house” there and Augusta attorney Pat Rice took umbrage at that.

“It is not, it is not, a halfway house,” he proclaimed. ”It is not part of the criminal justice system. There are no criminals in this program.”

It will be geared to treating physicians, lawyers and other professionals who have drug and alcohol problems and who can afford the treatment, said CEO Monica Demitor. That will run $90,000-$120,000 a month, with more for some extra amenities, she said. People at the facility will already have gone through detoxification before they get to the center for the next phase of their recovery, which could be 60-90 days, Rice said.

“Nobody at the facility will be an active user,” he said. The program will be based on the successful Florida Recovery Center founded by Dr. Mark Gold in association with the University of Florida where he is chair of psychiatry. Treatment for physicians in programs like this have been highly successful - in one five-year study 80 percent had returned to work drug-free, he said.

“I do think that treatment really works,” Gold said. The Florida Recovery Center - with a similar professional patient population - is very close to campus and in a much more densely populated neighborhood, he said.

“The neighbors I believe have been happy,” Gold said. “The community has been happy” with the situation there. The initial patient population would be around 14 and over five years would build up to about 50 at a time, Rice said. There could be up to 75 full-time jobs and the project could have an economic impact of $34 million a year, the proponents said.

Like the Florida center, the proposed one in Augusta would be done in cooperation with Georgia Regents University but no agreement has been signed yet, officials said. Georgia Regents Medical Center would provide medical services for the residents and eventually two psychiatry residents and a psychology resident would be at the facility full-time, said Dr. Joe Ricci, administrative director for behavioral health for Georgia Regents Health System. A year-long fellowship in addiction treatment, something that does not exist currently in Georgia, would also be part of the center’s treatment, which will also include research, he said.

“There is going to be a very strong training component and also a research component,” Ricci said. That affiliation with cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment is a strength of the Florida center and will be a strength of the Georgia center, which will attract patients nationally and internationally, he said.

But that did not dissuade the fears of many neighbors, who envisioned people wandering away from the facilities and posing a danger to their children and elderly neighbors. That’s not been an issue at other professional treatment programs, said Tina Black, vice president of operations for Georgia Professional Recovery.

“These people have an investment in getting better,” she said. “They’re not interested in wandering the woods.”

Afterward, Rice approached Stembridge about getting together with the neighbors and clearing the air. Many are vowing to fight it when it comes back up again.

“It’s in our neighborhood with our children,” Crystal Seago said afterward.

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Little Lamb
46040
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Little Lamb 08/05/13 - 09:31 pm
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3
Economic Impact

From the story:

Augusta attorney Pat Rice said the project could have an economic impact of $34 million a year.

When they pull out the "economic impact" card, hold on to your wallet. How do you know when an attorney is lying to you?

Dixieman
14972
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Dixieman 08/05/13 - 11:55 pm
9
3
Well, what did you expect?

They're not going to put it in West Lake, are they?

thauch12
6670
Points
thauch12 08/06/13 - 12:14 am
10
5
You know south Augusta could

You know south Augusta could use some doctors and lawyers moving there...in whatever capacity they may be in haha!

All joking aside, are these people really THAT misinformed? I won't go so far as to call them stupid, but there is a HUGE difference between a treatment center geared at recovering professionals (who will pay nearly $100k a month to be there) versus a halfway house for criminals (who will require $100k in tax payer dollars to be there). This "not in my backyard" syndrome is ridiculous.

Austin Rhodes
2862
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Austin Rhodes 08/06/13 - 12:59 am
9
3
This piece of property is perfect for this use...

...and security concerns from the "neighbors" are really bizarre. Are they aware that this may be the safest use of that property possible, and that IF the owner wanted, he could slap 200 low cost units up in there and THEN they could see what drug problems are REALLY LIKE.

Once the people are made aware of the specific nature of this facility, most serious objection should pass.

The word got out in the neighborhood that this was going to be some "half-way" house for raging addicts. They were wrong, and if they bother to take in the truth, they will soon be thankful for the facility, and the fact that the land owner did not take the cheap and easy way out, as described above.

scoobynews
3854
Points
scoobynews 08/06/13 - 05:06 am
8
2
The South Augusta residents

The South Augusta residents should be concerned about the fact that drugs are sold right next door in most of their neighborhoods. Instead they are worried about a treatment center. Geez!

seenitB4
87304
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seenitB4 08/06/13 - 07:24 am
8
4
Bull bull slings a long way

I would say the folks have a right to ask questions...I certainly don't blame them..with all the crap that South Augusta has had to swallow..GEEZ...It is easy to sit in a safe location & throw stones..

All that glitters is not always gold & the folks south of Gordon Hy KNOW IT!!

mikeelliott
73
Points
mikeelliott 08/06/13 - 08:17 am
6
1
South Augusta real estate

has been taking a severe beating over the last 10-15 years. From what I am understanding, this would appear to be a blessing to the area. Sure, we have the freedom and right to question what goes on in our backyards, but this seems to be a very upscale, low impact use of our neighbor's property. More questioning of the actual property owners/managers would be more benificial than attorney-talk. A little investigation into what the neighbors of The Florida Recovery Center have to say about it may also provide solid answers. Maybe 8th District Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle would be a good resource.
Wayne Guilfoyle
4940 Windsor Spring Rd.
Hephzibah, GA 30815
Ph: (706) 592-2385 (home)
Ph: (706) 796-3444 (work)

nocnoc
42692
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nocnoc 08/06/13 - 08:18 am
9
5
To everyone more or less putting down the South Siders.

NIMBY are real people that care about their communities, not ill informed yokel and South Side Hicks and fools as some have tried hard to label us.

So, how about allowing the facility to be placed in the house next door to yours, would that be OK?

Would not, yourself and your neighbors raise the same concerns about their community and demand it be place elsewhere?

Would you not then be a NIMBY'er yourself?

Many of us haven't forgot the weeks sink made about a certain Apartment complex being in the wrong place about 2 years ago in Martinez. Or the hell raised about problems with a drug rehab house DOWNTOWN over the years.

I guess those people were not NIMBY'ers?

So Be honest,
which of you Nay Sayers of the South Side would Publicly and Actively champion having the facility next door to your house or your own community? Silence can be deafening when the same question or circumstances do a 180 can't they.

There is a reason for NIMBY'ers and it is simple.
People know where this is headed, once a toe hold is established.

The difference between many of you, and the South Side is, y'all have the power, and the funds and the ability voice a ARC wide concern to avoid having to live with it.

This is just the latest example of DOWNTOWN dumping things on the South Side to clean up or avoid its problems.

An yet again that nasty word "CONSOLIDATION" has make it possible.

Maybe it is the fact we are tired of being a dumping ground for Downtown. Over the last 16+ years, if the South Side has learned 1 thing, it is no matter what is promised and told won't happen. We always end up with a sinking pile of promises and usually the opposite of what we are told would not happen.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 08/06/13 - 08:26 am
6
3
Thanks nocnoc

Exactly what I'm sure many southsiders are thinking right now...If it is a quality rehab center prove it to the neighbors...they have been bitten before.

soapy_725
43678
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soapy_725 08/06/13 - 08:33 am
0
0
What about the GA Regional site? Closing? Gracewood?
Unpublished

What about the GA Regional site? Closing? Gracewood?

Truth Matters
6853
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Truth Matters 08/06/13 - 08:40 am
3
3
Rehab

I can certainly understand the apprehension of the homeowners in that area. This issue brings to the forefront a lot of the attitudes we have about addiction. One, some see it as a sin, others see it as a character flaw, and then others see it as an illness.

It may be a good time for people to pause and read some of the work by Betty Ford and her struggle with addiction and how it led to the founding of the Betty Ford Treatment Center.
The stigma attached to addiction is so strong that professionals, such as doctors, CAN'T go to "regular" facilities for the risk of being outed and eventually losing their practice. That is a great motivator to get well.

Good luck to the homeowners as they seek to find the best response to this proposal. They are more likely to do that by arming themselves with factual information about treatment facilities of this type.

corgimom
32599
Points
corgimom 08/06/13 - 08:49 am
4
3
Truth Matters, yes, it's

Truth Matters, yes, it's true, I have a strong aversion to being operated on, diagnosed, or being given medical treatment by a drug addict or an alcoholic.

I'm funny like that. So is everybody else. Go figure.

Now, if you want to call that a "stigma", that's fine with me.

GnipGnop
12241
Points
GnipGnop 08/06/13 - 08:52 am
4
1
Nocnoc I disagree on one point only

It's a stinking pile not a sinking pile :)

corgimom
32599
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corgimom 08/06/13 - 08:59 am
4
5
Well, here's my question.

Well, here's my question.

Ok, so the high-end treatment center comes in, and everything is hunky dory.

Then the down-and-dirty, methadone clinics come in. Why not? There would already be a treatment center there, why not two or three?

nocnoc
42692
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nocnoc 08/06/13 - 09:21 am
5
0
GnipGnop About the "T"

My typo,
but at least it works both way.

GnipGnop
12241
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GnipGnop 08/06/13 - 09:45 am
4
0
lol I actually

thought you really meant sinking pile...too funny!!

Riverman1
84110
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Riverman1 08/06/13 - 11:25 am
7
2
These people will be paying

These people will be paying $90,000-$100,000 a month for treatment? Remind me to stick with beer.

thauch12
6670
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thauch12 08/06/13 - 11:40 am
4
4
The truly hilarious part

The truly hilarious part about all this is that the facility would probably RAISE property values on Bennock Mill Road. If you look at the area, you'll notice that it's basically a sea of trailers. Not that there's anything wrong with living in a trailer, it's just a fact that they're not worth much.

That, and don't act like this is really south Augusta. This is area is truly out in the goonies, not at the intersection of Peach Orchard and Windsor Spring. Use whatever cute acronym you want, but this certainly looks like a good thing for the area.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 08/06/13 - 12:32 pm
6
3
Hilarious you say

There is no laughter going on there about this project....what is insane is that some on here make fun & ridiculed these south Augusta folks for even questioning the project....we all know if anything close to this was proposed for the Hill area some would be up in the face of the commish...
So...don't play games & point your finger at "trailer" home owners.....at least they aren't living off the daddie government.....please remember.....whatever happens to that area will be your headache in years to come....the damage has been done & many tax paying home owners have had enough....you are seeing the last of the people who give a darn.

dichotomy
33017
Points
dichotomy 08/06/13 - 12:57 pm
7
2
"Then the down-and-dirty,

"Then the down-and-dirty, methadone clinics come in. "

Or.........and more likely......what if the high dollar rehab patients don't pan out and the "$90K a month" business model fails. Since the facility is already zoned and approved for a rehab center, could it, with ZERO effort and NO further input from the neighbors, be turned into a MEDICAID funded treatment center for low life meth and crack heads and heroin addicts.

Look folks, the people in Southeast Richmond County have been sucker punched repeatedly by George Patty at Planning and Zoning, the downtown dominated Commission, and the various Administrators for 17 years since Consolidation. We've watched our taxes increased, our vacant property rezoned to a classification that will it will NEVER be used for just so they could re-value it upward for tax purposes, our REAL WORLD real estate market values nose dive, and unwanted county contract services FORCED on US at DOUBLE the going rate. These people have EVERY right to be suspicious of ANYTHING the county...errr...."City" of Augusta does to their neighborhood.

dichotomy
33017
Points
dichotomy 08/06/13 - 01:15 pm
8
1
And for those who are now

And for those who are now saying "That nice piece of property would never be turned into a treatment facility for meth heads and cocaine addicts", I say........PROVE THAT TO THE NEIGHBORS. Put it in writing.....put a covenant on the property......prove it. PROVE to them that their worst neighbor will be a $90K a month doctor who is craving oxycodone or morphine. What could possibly go wrong?

nocnoc
42692
Points
nocnoc 08/06/13 - 03:36 pm
5
2
OK based on the down votes many disagree &

feel it is OK label South Siders sub-standard and have no objections to having this nearer to them.

OK ......QUESTION:

THOSE THAT SUPPORT THIS, WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

A Simple:
SOUTH SIDE,
SOUTH WEST SIDE
WEST SIDE,
DOWNTOWN AREA (old City area),
NOT IN ARC,

will do for answer.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 08/06/13 - 03:48 pm
3
2
Haha

THAT is good nocnoc......maybe they are the builders of the project...& don't even live near.:) bye bye for awhile.

triscuit
3086
Points
triscuit 08/06/13 - 04:04 pm
4
1
If South Augusta does not

If South Augusta does not want a Professional Treatment Center there, please come to West Augusta and tear down the Section 8 apartment complex in my area and build this facility instead.

augusta citizen
9355
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augusta citizen 08/06/13 - 07:39 pm
1
1
goonies?

The word is boonies, not goonies, haha! Maybe these folks moved to the boonies and wanted it to stay that way, nothing wrong with that.

Little Lamb
46040
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/13 - 07:45 pm
1
1
Change Your Mind

On Austin Rhodes Radio Program, Andy Cheek called in today. He reminded us of many, many projects where what ultimately developed there was not what the developers promised. The pitchman, Augusta Attorney Pat Rice promised pie in the sky with the millionaire doctors and actresses who would soon be gracing Augusta to dry out — but the bottom line is that Augusta Attorney Pat Rice has nothing to lose if the facility goes bust and transitions into something less than promised.

Dichotomy has the correct idea above. Put restrictions on the deed as to what is permitted and what is forbidden.

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