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No Decision Made in Case of Proposed Rehab Center, Testimony to Resume at March Zoning Board Meeting

Sunrise Detox wants to open a drug and alcohol detoxification facility in a 17,000-square-foot building on Federal City Road adjacent to the Traditions at Federal Point adult community.

The debate over whether or not there is a local need for a 38-bed in-patient detoxification center in Lawrence Township will continue for at least another month.

The township Zoning Board of Adjustment held its fourth hearing on the matter last Wednesday, Feb. 2. With testimony still incomplete, a fifth hearing will be held on March 16 before the board votes on whether to allow Florida-based Sunrise Detox to open the proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in a 17,000-square-foot building on Federal City Road adjacent to the entrance to the Traditions at Federal Point adult community.  

A land-use variance must be issued by the zoning board before property owner John Simone can legally lease the building to Sunrise for use as a short-term medical center.

Last week, the board and a few dozen members of the public heard continued testimony from Dr. Leslie Hendrickson, an East Windsor-based consultant who is working with Sunrise. He told the board that federal statistics indicate that New Jersey has fewer detox programs then national averages.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people around here who could benefit from these services,” he said.

The kinds of in-patient treatment services that would be available in the Lawrence facility, were it to be approved, are currently a “relative scarcity” in this region, he said.

Hendrickson’s testimony–intended to prove that there is a significant need for in-patient detox services in the immediate area–included an observation that there are “gobs of out-patient facilities, but very few in-patient [facilities]” locally.

Hendrickson said that according to federal statistics from the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) nearly 557,000 adults who live in the state of New Jersey have been identified as having “an unmet need for substance abuse services.”

Hendrickson said the data also shows that only 51,000 adults in New Jersey sought treatment, with about 3,800 of those adults opting for in-patient treatment, similar to Sunrise Detox’s proposed program.

Board members expressed their uncertainty about how to digest the data, asking what meaning to assign to it. Specifically, they questioned what percentage of patients would actually be served if Sunrise Detox were to open its doors in Lawrence Township.

The board argued that Sunrise would be a specialized facility and that the 557,000 figure cited by Hendrickson isn’t broken down by kind of addiction–it’s just a total of everyone suffering from various alcohol and drug problems.

To bolster Sunrise’s claim for a facility in Lawrence Township, Hendickson offered some statistics about the patients who use Sunrise’s facility in Stirling in Morris County.

“At the Sunrise program at Stirling, 30 percent of its patient pool have come directly from Mercer County and the counties surrounding it,” he said.

According to Hendrickson, the Mercer County Office of Addiction Services found in 2009 that 40 percent of county residents seeking drug or alcohol detoxification treatment must do so outside of the county.

Board members told Hendrickson that in order to accept that there is a solid need for Sunrise’s services in Mercer County, they would have to be shown that there are no vacant beds in existing in-patient residential detox facilities in the state.

The Sunrise representatives have previously said that Sunrise’s 21-bed Stirling facility has been filled to capacity since its Dec. 2009 opening.

The next hearing on Sunrise’s proposal will be held on Wednesday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Township Municipal Building at 2207 Lawrence Rd. (Route 206).

Jim Ianni February 10, 2011 at 04:20 PM
This has me outraged! The facility in question is not adjacent to the community, it is basically just within the entrance to it. My parents sold their house and bought in this community when they weren't even built yet. They were told that the properties out front would only be for medical offices which sounds fine for outside a safe pricey retirement community. John Simone is a greedy/shady realtor who doesn't care about anything but his pockets. He tried to completely avoid letting the community know his plans and had the president and vice president of the association snowed into believing that disclosure is not necessicary. He also said that it's not his problem that/if the facility will drive the value of these homes down. Fortunately, my father worked in the govt and regulated things like this so he's been a thorn in Simone's side. This can NOT happen. This is not a good spot for a detox center. How about they move in next to John Simone's house. I'm sorry, but facilities like this bring crime. How long before the burglaries/robberies start? This facility needs to be in an area with more control, not a quiet retirement neighborhood. Somebody has to stand up for these retirees who dumped all their savings into somewhere they'd feel safe. John Simone should be ashamed of himself. I bet HIS parents are proud.
Jeremy Ishaid February 13, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Why wasn't there this many public meetings regarding the Capital Health System hospital proposal? Now in the face of bad economic times that hospital would have been quite a benefit to the taxpayers of this town and the medical offices that would have come with it = tax ratables. Now we listen as Shady Simone presents this ridiculous idea to the town. What a shame it would be to allow this crack bin to operate when the towns political agenda and friendship with Doug Palmer squashed a legitimate health care facility, Capital Health. The politicians were worried about the quality of life due to increased traffic and closed the door on the hospital. Now the town is listening to Simone about letting drug addicts "rehab" in our town. Please do the right thing and send Simone and his idea packing.

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