Friday, October 21, 2011
Zoners Ponder Drug Rehab Near Bethlehem Catholic High School
Zoners were scheduled to consider another Atiyeh request for a proposed juvenile residential treatment facility on a wooded lot at 3485 Linden Street. That matter was continued until November because of Atiyeh Attorney Blake Marles expected that the testimony concerning the request at Calvary Baptist would consume the entire evening.
Marles was right. Zoners called it a night after five hours, as many members of the audience were still in the midst of cross-examining his fourth witness, Malvern CEO Joseph Curran.
Cavalry Baptist Pastor Larry Burd explained that his church outgrew its campus on Linden Street, and has relocated to Green Pond Road. But he angered the audience, many of them parents of Bethlehem Catholic students, when he stated that a drug rehab center located next to a high school was appropriate.
"I would like to see some of those priests and teachers go in there and take students in there," Pastor Burd said in response to questioning by zoner Bill Fitzpatrick. Burd claimed there are "no doubt" many addicts at Becahi, who could be "transformed" by sharing the Gospel with rehab patients. He argued that, like Mother Teresa, the school should do "everything it could to reach out to those people." He claimed the neighbors would do the same, "if they have any Christian faith at all."
In response to questioning from the audience, Pastor Burd conceded that he never spoke to Bethlehem Catholic officials because he recently had rotator cuff surgery. He also acknowledged that he has "an excellent relationship" with the school, which allows him to use the high school parking lot. "Is this how you thank them?" asked one angry mother.
Malvern's CEO, Joseph Curran, himself rejected the idea of student and teacher visits from the high school, citing confidentiality, privacy laws and an "intense" program of treatment that allows "very little contact with the outside."
"Our patients, by law, have to be protected from the outside community," Curran noted.
He described the program as a thirty-day inpatient facility that is essentially drug free, except for the initial 7-day period in which addicts are treated with controlled substances. He indicated the program provides a very structured environment for person who are over 18, ambulatory, and have no severe psychiatric conditions and present no danger of suicide.
Before a patient is admitted, Curran stated that an assessment is made in which prospective patients are asked about their criminal history. "We do not accept involuntary commitments," he added.
Curran also stated that the Malvern facility is in a residential neighborhood, though he conceded there are no nearby schools.
In addition to a M.D. and a psychiatrist, the facility would be staffed by nurses, counselors and administrative staff, bringing about 100 jobs to the area.
Pen Argyl resident Hope Ctturo, whose daughter attends the high school, asked Curran about the screening done before a patient is admitted. Curran acknowledged that, although patients are asked about their criminal histories, no background checks are run.
In response to other questions, Curran acknowledged that there have been times when residents and visitors have brought drugs into Malvern. But he also stated that in the last 1 /1/2 years, the only neighbor complaint concerned some residents who were talking too loudly in a designated smoking area, located outside.
In response to repeated concerns about the facility's proximity to Bethlehem catholic, Curran stated he understood. "I understand the fear. I understand the stigma. I understand what the stereotype of an addict is. I also understand the reality. I do, and I know that is not the face of addiction. It's everywhere. One in four families. Look around the room. It's in here. I know that."
Curran repeatedly assured both audience and zoners, but many were still lining u to question hm at 11 PM. At that point, zoners decided to continue this matter, and it is re-scheduled tentatively for October 31 at Town Hall, 10 E Church Street.