Unison Health likely will have to find a new site for a drug and alcohol recovery home it had planned to open just outside the Old West End.
Dr. Khalida Durrani, M.D., left, with Unison Health president/CEO Jeff De Lay at the opening of a Unison Health 16-bed substance abuse recovery home on Cherry Street in June of 2017. A similar facility planned for Jefferson Avenue has met with resistance from residents and Toledo's city council.
Toledo City Council at a zoning and planning committee meeting Wednesday heard arguments for and against the proposal, and ultimately more council members expressed their desire to deny Unison’s request for both the zoning change and special-use permit required to open the facility at 2310 Jefferson Ave.
“I have to listen to the constituents. They’re saying, ‘No. We have enough,’” said Councilman Yvonne Harper, who represents District 4, where Unison is proposing to open the home.
The chief complaints from area residents at Wednesday’s meeting were that there are too many drug rehabilitation facilities in their neighborhood and that allowing Unison Health to open its recovery home would violate city regulations that mandate at least 500 feet between any group living facilities.
“These facilities are depressing our neighborhood, our property values, and violating the law,” Old West End resident David Neuendorff said. “The law is very clear and we hope that you uphold it.”
The Toledo City Plan Commission staff in January recommended disapproval of the zone change and special-use permit requests for those very reasons, though the Plan Commission board went against the staff and recommended waiving the 500-foot requirement and approving the plans.
Council members Matt Cherry, Cecelia Adams, Chris Delaney, Tyrone Riley, and Peter Ujvagi joined Ms. Harper in saying they would recommend disapproval to city council, which likely will vote on the issue at its March 27 meeting.
Council members Nick Komives, Sandy Spang, and Tom Waniewski spoke in favor of the proposal, and council members Gary Johnson, Larry Sykes, and Rob Ludeman were absent.
The recovery house aims to provide a safe, sober living environment to 16 to 20 people at a time who are recovering from substance abuse but have already been through detox, Unison Health President Jeff De Lay said. The company in June, 2017, opened a 16-bed recovery home on Cherry Street, and the Jefferson Avenue proposal would mirror that.
“Behavioral health for substance abuse recovery is not just about detox. It’s about providing a full continuum of care that can last an entire year for someone to get stable and to learn the change in behavior that they need to avoid substance abuse in the future,” he said. “Part of that continuum is safe recovery housing.”
Lucas County Deputy Sheriff Karl Schwemley, a member of the Drug Abuse Response Team, said the community needs more substance abuse recovery options in the county, and District 4 is a central location that makes sense.
“The need for these beds is immense. We’re going the right direction with the county and with the city, but we would just like to see more,” he said. “There are some people waiting days, or even weeks to get into treatment. That’s too long. That’s why we’re having so many overdose deaths in this county right now and in the city.”
In other business Wednesday, the committee recommended approving a special-use permit that would allow GTI Ohio LLC to sell medical marijuana at 3151 and 3157 W. Sylvania Ave., should the state approve its dispensary license.
The full council likely will vote March 27 on that issue as well.
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