The proposed site of a women’s residential recovery program, the former Elyria Health Department building, 202 Chestnut St., is shown Tuesday. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE
ELYRIA — It’s been a year since the Primary Purpose Center opened its doors in Sheffield Township to bridge the gap between addiction and sobriety as a half- and three-quarter way residential recovery program for men.
Today, roughly 80 men reside inside the former Riveredge racquetball club, where recovery is achieved through a mix of intense treatment programming and working through the 12-step program. The nonprofit, which works with The LCADA Way, wants to do the same for women struggling with addiction and has turned its attention toward Elyria with a plan to purchase the former Health Department building.
There, Ed Barrett, co-director of Primary Purpose, said the hope is to open a 50-bed facility specifically for women and their children.
“The county is lacking in facilities to treat this problem in our community, and we are just trying to be a part of the solution,” Barrett said.
Monday night, members of City Council’s Community Development Committee voted to rezone the property at 202 Chestnut St. from Business District (B-D) to Residential Multi-Household High Density (R-MHH) to make way for the project. Planning Commission passed the rezoning request Nov. 13.
Mayor Holly Brinda said the facility will need to apply for and receive a conditional use permit before it can open and residents will have an opportunity to voice any concerns at a public hearing.
“We don’t have enough services in this community and we have to find ways to provide them,” Brinda said.
Diane Falty, the owner of 213 Chestnut St., said during Monday’s meeting that she hopes the city reconsiders the rezoning request and subsequent plans to open a treatment facility near her home.
Falty said she has several concerns.
“A residential treatment center will negatively affect housing values, potentially bring crime to the area, add traffic to the area and put a burden on emergency services,” she said.
In a separate email sent Tuesday to Brinda, Falty questioned if the city had investigated any potential negative impact on the neighborhood and how the facility would operate.
Brinda said the city is working with The LCADA Way and Primary Purpose because there is a need for recovery services in the city, specifically near the downtown area. The location seemed ideal as the former Health Department previously provided some addiction services although mainly as a naloxone distribution site through Project DAWN.
Council members Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward, and Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, both questioned Monday if the city is doing enough to inform nearby residents of proposed plans.
“Let’s just make sure we are doing enough to know how they feel about this type of facility going into the community,” Mitchell said.
Madison said he voted to approve the rezoning request to move the conversation forward, but wanted to be included on future communications with residents who have concerns about how the building’s new purpose would fit into the neighborhood.
“Clearly, if we are hearing from someone (Monday night), they were not completely informed,” he said.
The Sheffield Township facility got off to a rocky start because of government red tape in Lorain, where Primary Purpose originally wanted to go, but officials there were wary of having another social service-based entity in its midst. Moving to the township meant the center went through the state for its permits.
“Some cities try to deny there is a problem and some cities step right up and want to be involved,” Barrett said. “Elyria knows there is a problem and wants to be a part of the solution.”
Barrett said the Elyria facility would mirror the current Primary Purpose in many ways.
“Things have been good here,” he said. “We have had very little problems in the community. We try to stay within our own walls. No one is just walking around.”
Barrett said residents come to Primary Purpose after going through detox where they then start a 120-day recovery program. It is a two-phase program that starts off with halfway lockdown living and then transitions to three-quarter way status that allows residents to slowly move back into society.
Roughly 95 percent of residents are involved with The LCADA Way in a day-treatment program five days a week. They are picked up and dropped off each day. While at Primary Purpose, they are required to be involved in peer-led group sessions. The residents do not have in and out privileges and do not work until they transition down to Phase 2.
“We want them to concentrate on themselves and getting better,” he said. “The biggest thing is we have complete structure. No one is leaving the building unless they are supervised. We keep a tight rein on where they are going and who they are with. You are not going to find a bunch of people who are in recovery just wondering around the city.”
If approved, Primary Purpose would not be Elyria’s only housing program for addicts seeking sobriety.
A Road to Hope, a certified associate member of the Ohio Recovery Housing Network, operates recovery houses on Irondale Street and Ninth Street that provide abstinence-based 12-step programs to people in a sober environment. Jeff Kamms, executive director, said A Road to Hope may have a different structure than Primary Purpose, but both have the same goal of trying to get people to sobriety.
“We hope to keep them for at least six months because statistically speaking that’s where we’re most successful based on our outcomes,” he said. “Our success rate is 62 percent for people who stay six months or longer and jumps to 80 percent for people who stay a year or more. Our evidence shows the longer they stay, the more successful they are at recovery.”
Kamms said he also understands the stigma associated with a plan to move into a new community. In 2014, A Road to Hope wanted to move into an old church in Eaton Township, but the township rejected the plan.
“We got a lot of kickback and realized that even if we won, we really wouldn’t win,” he said. Ultimately, we don’t want to be in a community where we are not welcome.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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