Bloomington recovery center goes forward despite opposition

Signs both opposing and supporting a planned drug and alcohol treatment facility stand side-by-side at the Bloomington interchange. Aug. 9, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Samantha Aiken

ST. GEORGE – Plans to open a residential drug and alcohol treatment center in the Bloomington Ranches neighborhood of St. George will apparently go ahead without any opposition from the city, according to statements from both city officials as well as the owners of the planned facility.

Many Bloomington residents have strongly opposed plans to build the facility, citing property value concerns, as well as worries that the residential treatment home might attract a criminal element to the neighborhood. On Aug. 28, dozens of Bloomington residents showed up en-masse at a town hall meeting organized by U.S. House Rep. Chris Stewart, to voice their opposition.

The city’s zoning ordinances currently allow for residential treatment facilities to house up to eight patients. The owners of Steps Recovery Center originally planned to build a 24-bed facility, which would have required them to obtain a conditional use permit from city council, exempting the center from current zoning laws.

This would have put the city in a difficult position because denying such a permit would have likely resulted in an expensive lawsuit. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids local governments from denying such permits for residential treatment facilities in most cases. However, by scaling back the size of the facility, it is unlikely that the owners will need to seek approval from city officials.

St. George City Councilman Jon Pike said  he doesn’t think there is anything the city will be able to do to prevent the facility from opening, so long as they don’t house more than eight patients.

“I don’t believe it will even come before the city,” Pike said; he has publicly indicated that he would oppose plans to open a 28-bed facility.“My understanding is there is not a lot that can be done,” he said, “so long as they are operating in accordance with the law.”

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act classifies drug and alcohol addiction as a disability, Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said, there is not much that the city can do to prevent the facility from opening in the Bloomington neighborhood.

“Under federal law, people with disabilities are a protected class,” Mortensen said. “This is not the first time we’ve seen something like this and, in certain situations, our hands are tied by federal law.”

The city will continue to keep a close eye on the situation, Mortensen said, and: “We are doing what is necessary to make sure that (the owners of the facility) are abiding by both state and federal laws, as well as city codes and ordinances.”

Bloomington resident Warren Church has been instrumental in organizing community opposition to the planned treatment center. Church said he understands that there is a community need for drug and alcohol treatment facilities but that he doesn’t think they belong in residential neighborhoods.

“There’s a place for these centers, we all agree that we need places for sick people,” Church said. “The rehab center is not the issue, but where the rehab center is being placed because of federal law is what we have a problem with.”

Church has had several meetings with city officials, including members of city council, the mayor, and the city attorney, he said. He recognizes the city has done all that it can do in light of the decision by Steps Recovery to limit the facility to eight beds rather than 24, as originally planned.

However, Church and other Bloomington residents are not ready to give up their fight just yet. He said:

We are going to do what we said we are going to do. The bottom line is that we are going to exercise our limited right to oppose this facility at its current location. We are going to protest this business that is being put in a place it should not be in.

Mike Jorgensen, one of the owners of Steps Recovery, said that he hopes the opposition to the planned treatment home will die down once neighbors come to see that the people who seek treatment for addiction are not dangerous criminals, but rather members of their own community.

“Hopefully when we open up, people will realize what we do and how we do it,” Jorgensen said, “and the neighbors will welcome us into the community.”

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Signs both opposing and supporting a planned drug and alcohol treatment facility stand side-by-side at the Bloomington interchange. Aug. 9, 2013 | Photo by Samantha Aiken, St. George News
Signs both opposing and supporting a planned drug and alcohol treatment facility stand side-by-side at the Bloomington interchange. Aug. 9, 2013 | Photo by Samantha Aiken, St. George News

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  • Dan Lester October 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I’m pleased to hear that this project is moving ahead and trust that it will be successful. My wife and I are recovering alcoholics (and, thank God, never got into drug addiction), and know full well that people who are recovering are not usually dangerous people. When alcoholics and addicts are dangerous is when they’re out on the street driving impaired, robbing to support their habits, and so forth. Once they’ve reached the point that these people will have, you won’t know them from anyone else other than by the stigma of “living in THAT house”. And, they will have all been vetted to be sure they don’t have criminal problems. Fortunately, a great many of us realize we need help BEFORE we have criminal problems, or perhaps after having a first DUI or a spouse ready to leave us.

    Give these people a chance, please, and recognize that some of you could be, maybe even should be, one of them. And if not you, undoubtedly someone in your extended family, your ward, your church, your club, or somewhere else.

    • zeke October 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Ha! You are too funny Dan. “I’m an alcoholic but thank goodness it wasn’t drug addiction” News flash! Its the same thing. Dont think for a second that alcoholism is in some way a more favorable form of addiction than drugs. This facility will probably cater to both addictions. Sorry Dan, I’m still chuckling at your statement and overall lack of knowledge regarding addictions.

  • Dave October 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I certainly hope that Mr. Church never experiences the heartbreak of a loved one with an addiction. Though I must say that statistically he probably has. I would think he might change his harsh tune if he did. It’s amazing to hear him (and those rallying with him) say that they really understand the need for these types of programs, just not in their neighborhood or in any residential neighborhood. It’s okay for healthy people to live there, but not these “addicts”. People in treatment, for the record, not a crack house. Perhaps what Mr. Church has inadvertently declared is that in reality the neighborhood is actually not good enough for these people suffering from addictions.

  • Allan October 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    This whole thing is bull….
    I don’t want my son near a bunch of lowlife druggies. If one of em get out nd get a car and hits one of the kids, it’s the city’s fault.
    It’s bull … how someone I know was trying to open up a place to sell things that the towns Poole make and the city denies it, but this … little town will let more drug abusers here.
    This city needs to pull their head out of their … and look at what their doing to itself.
    So what your saying, all I have to do is do a bunch of drugs and I can be on the disabilitys act. …. I’m guna go get some black now. Maybe I can get a handicap parking too seeings how this town can’t get it’s … together.
    Liahona academy respected the town by building way out in the middle of nowhere.
    Kick them out of that house and have them go els where.
    Ed. ellipses

  • Bob Vosper October 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Hopefully the neighbors will realize their fears were unfounded and they will see the success of this facility. I know many have apposed other improvements in their area that did not impact them as feared. This will soon be another one.

  • Ryan October 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I really do hope this goes through. More jobs and people getting help. That’s all this is about. Helping people with a problem. A big problem. And Dan congrats on being successful recovering alcoholic. Zeke they are both problems, but Alcohol has less risk then drugs. Drinking attacks your liver and gets you drunk, far less from the effects of drugs. I had family members with both issues and alcohol was much easier to overcome and caused far less problem not only health wise but mentally. My cousin who was involved heavily with drugs who is no sober is so paranoid he thinks his phone is tapped and his computer along with his mothers house, and her electronics. Another one of my family members who was heavily involved in drugs (and still is as far as we know) we haven’t seen in about a year no one knows where she is or where she even lives and has been beaten up multiple times by several different partners. I’ve seen the pain from both angles and honestly if I had to choose alcohol would be the way to go.

  • trudie October 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I agree, with Dan and Dave. Good luck, and God bless and help all that walk through there.

  • Dan Lester October 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Zeke, I’m very well aware that alcoholism is just one form of drug abuse. I was simply indicating that we were fortunate to avoid still MORE forms of addiction. I apologize for the imperfect wording, as I’m usually more precise in my writing. Mea culpa. I have a daughter who has been clean for seven years after fourteen years on meth. And a stepson who has been clean for twenty after about fifteen on alcohol and coke (not the kind in a bottle). We’ve dealt with them being in jail, in treatment, living on the street, and so forth. And we’ve not enabled them. They had to solve their own problems, one with several months of treatment.

  • DD October 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Dan I enjoyed your perspective on the subject and congratulations to you and your wife for overcoming alcohol addiction. Addiction of any kind can be very difficult to beat, some are worse than others. My impression from Dan’s statement regarding drugs, was the illegal nature of that versus legally obtaining alcohol, Addiction is addiction but differs significantly from person to person, and from product to product. No two people recover identically. We are all individuals & our addictions are individual as well. Zeke, I don’t understand your need to “chuckle at his statement and lack of knowledge of addiction.” Sounds to me like he has a first line ‘perspective’ on his addiction & recovery. He is strong enough to publically admit his addiction. That is admirable. What about you Zeke? You seem to know so much about it, why don’t you elaborate? Personally I feel the rehab center is needed badly in our community.

  • Kat October 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I too am pleased the treatment center is going forward despite the opposition and un-Christlike attitudes of my fellow community members. Even though I do struggle with a child who has been addicted to drugs, I think I would very much be of the same mind, if I hadn’t had to experience it. We need to support one another, and work together as a community to help people (not enable them) to overcome their addictions. I have learned through my own counseling and through my child’s, that this is an illness just like many others. In the beginning of course it was a choice for them to try drugs, but once it became an addiction, it’s just so much harder, and it truly becomes an illness. My child came from a loving family with parents who love each other, and with loving and close siblings who never tried drugs or alcohol. But EVERY family has some problems. My child’s sins are just more visible than others. I know that if my child should need a facility like this, I would hope that others would not judge and condemn or look at him/her in disgust. It’s hard enough when ward members of our own church (and we’ve been extremely active our whole lives and have held many leadership callings, Bishop, YW President, etc.,) look down and judge my child so harshly, and turn their backs. If we were to live in another state, I can almost guarantee this type of condemnation and intolerance, at this level, would not exist. I had never experienced such behavior until moving to Utah years ago. Its shameful, and makes me ashamed sometimes that members of my own church within this community behave so badly.

  • Hoagan Powell October 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    I come from a family that has suffered from the tragedy and heartache of alcoholism and drug abuse. I am all for treatment because I know it can work. I am also for the protection of the rights of property owners, who have invested in residential neighborhoods based in part on deed restrictions and city codes. We can have it both ways. I am sorry the owner of the Steps treatment facility does not see it that way and chooses to, in my opinion, abuse the Americans with Disabilities Act, which I think has been a very beneficial piece of legislation. As a resident of Bloomington, who leaves four houses down from the proposed treatment facility, I am feeling abandoned by our city officials. It is sounding like our only hope to stop the facility from becoming a reality is for federal intervention, as it appears we have no representation from our city, county or state officials. Congressman Chris Stewart; front and center!

    • Betty October 16, 2013 at 8:20 am

      Well Hoagie, I’m sorry you feel that you don’t want this in your neighborhood. What you probably don’t know is that you have “addicts” living all around you. But they probably are not in treatment but rather sweeping it under the rug so the “bishop” or ward members find out. They believe because their drugs are in a prescription bottles, it really doesn’t count. Maybe this is an opportunity for you and your lovely wife to reach out, share the gospel and even invite some of the residents to the Christian Recovery meeting your church has on Thursday nights. Oh, and by the way, this is no more of an abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act then someone who puts a cape on a pet so they can take it wherever they want (wink, wink) 😉

      • Betty October 16, 2013 at 8:23 am

        Ooops! should have read: But they probably are not in treatment but rather sweeping it under the rug so the “bishop” or ward members DON’T find out.

  • Allie October 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

    My concern is not the need for a rehab center for those unfortunate to have an addiction problem. But, why would a group who wants to help people with addictions be willing to house only 8 people in a residential area, when in other areas they could help up to 24 without causing a fight? Is there a cost/benefit ratio? Inquiring minds would like to know why this area vs. other areas is the BEST for those who need help overcoming their addictions.

  • Dan Lester October 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Hoagan Powell, the chances of the federal government doing anything these days is remote. Heavens, they can’t even pay their bills, keep the parks open, or, perhaps, pay us our next social security checks. Any attempt to change ADA laws would take years, and would be unlikely to ever happen anyway. As I previously noted, I drive on your street almost every day on my way to Bloomington Country Club or to other places in that part of our city. I’ve noted all of the signs on Sugar Leo (and a couple of other streets) and hope that all can find love and acceptance for your new neighbors when they arrive.

  • Maggie October 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

    For heaven’s sake, this is a treatment center, not a bar! I think we should be supportive of people trying to correct their problem! For those who don’t want “low-life druggies” in their neighborhood, but don’t want treatment centers either, you are contradicting yourselves. This is crime prevention, not the cause if it.

  • Jason October 15, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Treatment centers are just places where you go and find more friends to do drugs with when you relapse.

    I think the residents have cause for alarm. Why not put this center outside of town or if need be in downtown where no one will notice the difference. The land must be cheaper outside of town and they could build a larger facility.

    • Dan Lester October 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Jason, your cynical and inaccurate comment simply reflects ignorance by those who’ve never had any experience with drug addiction and treatment.

      • Chris October 16, 2013 at 9:12 am

        Dan, you are the one who is ignorant of what goes on at these treatment centers. They are simply places that rich people send their miscreant relatives for lack of any better idea of how to deal with them. The rates of recidivism are very high, but the treatment centers don’t care because they just get more return business. Mike Jorgensen’s prime motivation is to make money off unfortunate addicts and their families.

  • Festus October 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I can’t wait till this center opens so I can attend and smoke all my cigarettes in a nice neighborhood for a change!

    • Betty October 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

      You’ll be in great company. Be sure to hide all the liquor bottles and beer cans at the bottom of the trash can so no one will know your dirty little secret. They may take your precious “recommend” away.

  • Chris October 16, 2013 at 9:04 am

    The very idea that addiction is a “disability” worthy of legal protection is ridiculous, and is symptomatic of our society’s current trend toward relieving anyone of personal responsibility for their actions. What is next? Should we consider laziness or mendacity as disabilities? Here is the truth: addiction is a character flaw that can only be rectified through the discipline of the individual. Giving addicts legal protection only gives them an excuse to continue their errant ways.

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