ST. GEORGE – Bloomington residents gathered in front of a residential drug and alcohol treatment home to protest its presence Saturday afternoon. The facility, which has been a source of controversy among local residents, is slated to open this coming Monday.
Located on Sugar Leo Road in the Bloomington Ranches area, the facility, owned and operated by the Steps Recovery Center, drew the ire of neighbors last summer when they learned what the building would become.
There were many concerns listed by residents who suddenly found themselves neighbors of the recovery home. Among their worries are the character of the people to be enrolled into the facility, the impact the facility would have on their property values and the overall effect a commercial business would have on a primarily residential zone.
“We are a cooperative community that is expressing our opposition toward a locally owned business that is trying to establish a for-profit venue in our residential neighborhood,” the residents said in a prepared statement.
A major complaint the residents have regarding the facility is that there doesn’t seem to be much they, the city or the state can do about its location. Due to the treatment home’s coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, worries about declining property values cannot be used by a city as a reason to reject an application for such facilities.
“We as homeowners are bewildered to the fact the government has been able to overpower our local, state and residential laws to allow this to happen.” the statement read. “We mystified citizens are largely concerned that our rights are being taken away little by little to favor special interest groups without any concern for the impact in each area that is affected.”
Simply put, many of the protesters said they wanted their neighborhood to remain residential and that it is no place for a treatment home, which is a commercial enterprise.
The statement also said: “There has been extensive research to show that such businesses that are being allowed to open … in our residential neighborhoods can operate without complications or difficulty in the proper zoning area such as commercial. That is why zoning laws have been established to allow American citizens the choice of where to live and where to invest in property.”
The fact that the facility is in a residential area is a main reason why the location was chosen, said Barbara Gaume, executive director of the Steps Recovery Center.
“Not everyone needs residential treatment,” Gaume said. However, she said there are those whose addictions are significant enough to warrant it.
“We recognize that (certain) people heal better in a residential setting rather than an institutional setting,” she said.
Research has shown that people struggling with addiction do better in recovery in a residential setting, and such research has been recognized by the federal government, Gaume said; that is why the government, through the Americans with Disabilities Act, allows for treatment facilities to be set up in residential areas that aren’t originally zoned for them.
Area residents have expressed worry over the character of the people who will reside at the center. But Gaume said people who enroll in the facility will be there because they want to be, speaking to their desire to overcome their vices. However, she also said future residents of the home may be those who are ordered by the court to seek treatment. They are not assigned to a specific treatment center, but rather given a list of facilities to choose from, including Steps.
Gaume said that residents of the home will not be able to come and go as they please. Those in treatment are closely supervised and given full-day schedules of exercise, counseling and chores around the home.
As well, due to acts of vandalism against the home in October, the majority of the premises is under heavy camera surveillance.
Should a resident choose to leave, they are driven from the property into the city, away from the neighborhood. People who leave prematurely also forfeit any refunds they may expect to claim, as the treatment is paid for privately or through insurance, or a mixture of both.
The treatment program lasts up to 90 days, and also includes nights when the entire family of an addict is brought in for group counseling. The group counseling is intended to help family members better understand addiction, as well as build a stronger recovery for the patient.
“The family component of recovery is key,” Gaume said.
The facility is licensed to serve eight adult residents, both male and female. There are two beds in each room, with extra beds available in case a resident is sick or there is an uneven number of men and women being treated at the home. Staff, many of whom have their own personal experiences with addiction, are on hand 24 hours a day.
Steps Recovery also maintains a facility at 1085 Bluff St. in St. George that offers free counseling to individuals and families dealing with addiction every Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The home will officially open on Monday and already has some people enrolled in the program, Gaume said.
As for the protestors, their disapproval of the facility remains. “Just because they want to manipulate a well-intended law doesn’t mean we as a community need to support it,” the statement read.
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