Next steps ahead for Washington County rehab centers
MARIETTA — Legal opinions are needed and a possible reopening of negotiation is on the table for residential substance abuse treatment in Washington County.
On Monday, Oriana House leadership met with parents of St. Mary Catholic School to discuss the nonprofit’s intent to open a medically assisted treatment center around the block on Third Street in the former Woman’s Home.
This is the second time in recent years a property in a residential downtown area of Marietta came under scrutiny for residential care of those with substance abuse disorders.
In 2015, 812 Fifth St., was protected under federal classifications as a home for those under the charge of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. Neighbors had objected to the site being used for rehabilitation.
The Fifth Street home, while currently vacant, is part of the planned model for a continuum of care that would begin with the Woman’s Home location.
The Woman’s Home closed at the end of 2017 after serving as a rest home for 132 years.
Oriana House leaders told the parents gathered Monday that the nonprofit is under contract to purchase the building, but City Law Director Paul Bertram said Oriana is operating under “a significant assumption” that residential treatment would follow current zoning allowances for that location.
“Their attorneys need to contact us to make sure that they comply,” he said, noting the Woman’s Home operated under an allowed nonconforming use within a residential zone.
The property is under R-2 zoning, and may retain the nonconforming special permit use allowing nursing homes, sanitariums, residential facilities for the developmentally disabled, health centers, medical offices, nonprofit or voluntary hospitals, and philanthropic or nonprofit institutions with sleeping accommodations.
“The location of the Woman’s Home retains a nonconforming use for two years,” explained Bertram on Wednesday.
But also in question is whether current legislation in the state, set to take effect at the close of June, would apply to the use Oriana intends.
Currently, the Ohio Revised Code prohibits residential treatment with methadone to occur within 500 feet of a school. Effective June 29, that wording changes to opioid treatment, but if Oriana were to be up and running prior to that effective date, Bertram said they may be grandfathered in.
“But you also have to review what the intent of the legislature was when they passed it, and who is protected and under what,” he said, noting parents’ concerns over protections for those diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder and fair housing protections for children. “There’s a lot of interpretation to be thought through so it’s going to take some time.”
Many parents Monday said a preferred location would be the Washington County Home in Marietta Township, but they were told that negotiations for that location stalled last year.
“That’s still open to negotiation and we rely heavily on our directors to keep in mind the costs of running those programs,” said County Commissioner Ron Feathers on Wednesday. “The County home levy pays for the maintenance, utilities, staffing, services and farm for the County Home and if Oriana were to go into the basement their services would have to be entirely separate by law.”
Administrator Jeff Campbell said that separation is entirely possible, and that he is still interested in the project.
“We threw that number ($10,000 per month lease) out there at first because we didn’t know if we would be providing the services and food as we do for our residents,” he said. “We’d be happy to go back to conversations about using the space and negotiate a price that we could agree on.”
Washington County Behavioral Health Board Executive Director David Browne said the initial $10,000 per month lease plus an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in renovations needed to operate the treatment program priced out how the program would be paid for– mental health levy dollars.
“Instead Oriana is putting down deep roots, they’re making a long-term investment and commitment to the needs of the residents of Washington County,” he said Wednesday. “They’re not here to make a quick buck and get out and that’s a great thing for us to have out here.”
Oriana House now operates both a halfway house in Reno for those mandated by the courts to complete community corrections programming and for those transitioning out of prison, and an outpatient facility through Rigel Recovery Services.
Hilles Hughes, the new assistant director for behavioral health, said she was also impressed with Oriana’s track record for similar treatment facilities in other communities.
“We’re not a guinea pig and I would hope that would give people more confidence,” she said, noting extra eyes with a 20-25 personnel facility could decrease other drug activity already occurring in the neighborhood of the Woman’s Home and St. Mary Catholic School.
Browne also noted that if the sale is completed and Oriana has the house up and running by January, the Fifth Street house would come back into play as early as March.
Between 2016 and this year, the home previously housed eight and nine residents after renovations took place to accomodate residential needs. It has no residents now in anticipation of changing the care model and gaining the Third Street property.
“That would be part of our continuum of care, transitioning out of the medically-assisted treatment, gaining more independence while getting a job but having a safe place to live with 24/7 supervision there, too,” Browne said.
He noted that Washington County residents who had completed in-patient treatment at the Third Street location would get preferred placement in the Fifth Street house, but the board would not bar other counties’ residents who complete treatment to live there either.
Mary Antons, president of the board of directors for the Woman’s Home, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.