Friday, October 21, 2011

Zoners Ponder Drug Rehab Near Bethlehem Catholic High School

At least ninety people filled Town Hall on October 19 for a Zoning Hearing Board meeting to consider developer Abe Atiyeh's request for a "special exception" so he could convert the vacant Calvary Baptist Church, located at 111 Dewberry Avenue into a 70-bed voluntary inpatient substance abuse center. The facility, which borders a baseball diamond at Bethlehem Catholic High School, would be operated by The Malvern Institute. That for-profit venture has a 80-bed inpatient facility in Chester County, but markets in the Lehigh Valley.

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.

Neighbor Nick Cordero, questioning Curran, was concerned that a patient could walk out whenever he wanted. He suggested that some of the addicts in the facility might really be pedophiles who would enter the rehab so they could case the high school, and then make a move.

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.


Anonymous said...

This gets a little deeper than rehab vs. BECAHI. This is more about Baptists vs. Catholics and the "graven image" thing in the Bible. Baptists (very to the right protestants) have some serious issues with the Catholic religion. Burds comment smacked of total disregard to Bethlehem Catholic. Imagine if Atiyeh proposed this next to the spanking brand new budding Calvary Baptist in lilly white Bethlehem Township!!! Mr. Burd would be having a fit. His talk of loving and gospel would fly right out the window. They would be massed trying to stop this. This comes down to lack of respect by the Baptist church toward the Catholic High School.

Anonymous said...

Can it be required of Malvern to run background checks on the patients before coming in and exclude those with violent offenses?

Zorn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"some of the addicts in the facility might really be pedophiles who would enter the rehab so they could case the high school, and then make a move."

It seems that the person who made the above comment is a closet case homo and watches scifi all night long!

Anonymous said...

Assuming they did run the background checks that would take up to 2 weeks for child abuse to come . So if the patient came there voluntarily they would be denied pending the results of the check. Someone would raise hell about that and sue or some crap. SPeaking of voluntary vs. involuntary, I love how he made it a point to say there would be no involuntary commitments permitted. Well anyone who has ever worked in the field or in corrections knows that if someone does something drug related on probation the first thing they do is check themselves into rehab seeking good faith from the courts....not that they have seen the light! Another concern is the smoking area. All rehabs have outdoor smoking areas and we all know the Becahi kids have a large population of smokers. However, the high school kids aren't the only ones that occupy that field. Not a large majority of the pee wee teams smoke as they are 5, 6 &7 years old. Why should they see it? I am just shocked that Atiyeh can stand there and try to say he is trying to help the community. What the hell, does he think people actually believe him? After trying to convince us that an Alzheimer's unit next to a cememtery was a good idea why doesn't he just put a rehab center off Stefko....the liquor store is right there! This man is becoming a nuisance to the community with his delusions of grandeur and stupid ideas....good thing he makes campaign donations to the right people on the right boards to help him because I think it's safe to say he's kind of a joke.

Anonymous said...

This case is far from over---still more testimony from the applicant and then the objectors present their case --in conclusion-final arguments and then deliberations by the board. Before everything is said and done -who knows some of the objectors may not think the idea is so bad and as a final note-the board can apply conditions to an approval if it goes in that direction.

Anonymous said...

When is this thing supposed to come to fruition? When is the final vote? I'm sure it will conveniently be after November 8 so Kraft can vote in his buddy Atiyeh's favor and not have to worry about it effecting votes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Zorn, I understand you were trying to be funny, but I don't think some people will get your humor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:37, Because Ken Kraft missed the initial hearing, he cannot vote on this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Can it be required of Malvern to run background checks on the patients before coming in and exclude those with violent offenses?"

Yes, that condition can be imposed, and cetainly seems reasonable.

CB57 said...

A Drug-free school zone is an area inclusive of any property used for school purposes by any school, whether or not owned by such school, within 1,000 feet of any such property, and within or immediately adjacent to school buses

give students a place where they can play and talk without being threatened by drug dealers and drug users.

from wikipedia

Maybe they should do away with drug free school zones? Or is that what they're trying to do?

Anonymous said...

If Pastor Burd was so concerned about rehabbing people he should have built an extra wing on to his new church on green pond road which is not next to a school. Gee I guess that never came up when they were planning the new church.

Anonymous said...

"Drug Free School Zones" are to provide an extra deterrent in sentencing for drug dealers coming within a school zone with "the intent" to sell drugs. It's not meant to criminalize hospitals or treatment centers who are providing care to the community. It's a silly argument and just shows the length that people will go to in order to veil their bias and discrimination of people who need help.

Anonymous said...

Those who need help put themselves in that position and should not expect to be choosers. Nobody is proposing that they not get treatment. It's difficult to believe this is the best or only location.

The pastor should stick to his own religion and not tell other religions how to comport themselves. Perhaps he should get a pointy hat and make himself Pope before directing area Catholics. I think the religious term for these types is "asshole."

Anonymous said...

And you could paint the pointy hat black to be fashionable for the Halloween season.

Anonymous said...

Ken Kraft can vote if he wanted to. Very political Bernie and you know it. Is there a law against voting.

He missed the first meeting to not have to take a position on this controversial issue.

Long politics as usual. why doesn't Kraft tell the public how he would vote on this if he had the courage o vote?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, he can't. Having missed the testimony from the first night, he cannot cast a vote either way. Allowing him to do so would give one side or the other an appeal issue.

Anonymous said...

if they really want a drug free zone they need to ban cell phone use around the school or for that matter pedophiles now use the internet for contacts. Not to mention sexting,so whose more of a threat ?Students or Rehab clients.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Not to mention sexting,"

I think that's mostly politicians now.

Anonymous said...

I think the entire issue of giving Kraft a pass on the drug rehab center is BS. Maybe they appeal maybe they don't. I found out there is no law against him voting since he receives the information.

Why does the guy keep ducking the issue. If you were being objective Bernie you would be asking that question.

Another Long Dem caught in the act.

Anonymous said...

Has Mr. Kraft received any political contributions from Mr. Atiyah or members of his family?

I hope Mr. Vaughn has a press conference about this special execption made for Mr. Atiyah and how it will desroy a neighborhood.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I did not see a contribution in Kraft's pre- and post- primary finance reports. If there is a contribution, it will show up. But if this was designed to influence Kraft's vote on a given issue, shouldn't Atiyeh want him at the meeting? Your point really makes no sense to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm supposing that the "Anonymous" are not members of a Catholic church. As a confirmed Catholic, we know many who call themselves Catholics who are not christians; fewer still live their faith. Calling themselves Catholics does a disservice to the church.

Bravo to Larry Burd. I've never known him to miss an opportunity to encourage someone to have the courage to follow their convictions. I'd like to hear more of this church discipline from the Catholic pulpit. Sadly, I don't think it fits the business model, but I still hope.

Here's an excerpt from the Morning Call article for some perspective for Anon 9:38AM:
“’Yes I do. It is an appropriate use,’ Burd said, and to it being next to a high school, ‘No, I do not think it is inappropriate.’
Burd said in the 29 years he has been with Calvary, the church treated many addicts under a program called the Redemption Group and believes Christians should help addicts and not consider them outcasts with no chance of redemption.
‘With BECA high so close, they could come there and share their faith ... I would be willing to share the gospel with them. The gospel is their greatest hope. These addicts need love, not rejection,' he said.”

I'm sure there are scared parents. I just wonder how well-founded their fears are. I mean: a pedophile may check into rehab to case a high school? That's pretty hyperbolic.

Bernie O'Hare said...

A comment by someone impersonating Ken Kraft has been deleted.

Anonymous said...

Yes let us allow anti-Catholic hate. Why not. Now the inability to not stop lifting a bottle is the same as cancer. We live in a politically correct fucked up world.

Make Attiyah follow the law. Hey Catholic hater, why don't you house the addicts in your house. Screw you dick weed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I happen to be a Catholic ( a lousy one) and a Becahi grad. Although I found Pastor Burd to be condescending, unrealistic and a bit hypocritical, I did not detect any anti-Catholicism on his part. Nor did I detect any from Anon 4:59. In fact, I believe that person identified himself (herself) as a Catholic, and made some good points.

I'm unwilling to be as complimentary to Burd as 4:59 bc he should have reached out to the school, and had to know this would be controversial.

In a rehab like Malvern, the high school students would never even see the patients. The persons being treated would be persons like you and me. Maybe I should say they are like the rest of the community.

Anonymous said...

Addicits are scumbags with no self control. It is like saying I am addicted to purse snatching. It is an insult to people who are really sick.

Anonymous said...

In this age of everyone having a car and when people in the Lehigh Valley consider both NYC and Philly a local commute, we need to rethink how we look at zoning drug rehab facilities.

Just because it is close to a school means nothing. It's not like there are going to be crackheads loitering outside the thing bothering high school kids.

Quite honestly, it would be worse to allow a bar to be zoned near a school, but that happens all the time. At least these people are trying to get their lives back together.

Anonymous said...

I am a Catholic. Pastor Burd is not wrong in saying that addicts should not be considered unreedeemable. No one should be. Jesus would have been the first guy on the scene ministering to them.

But I'd be suprised if jesus would not have chosen to protect children too.

It's one thing to say that they deserve a chance. It's another to say that that chance has to be given so close to a school.

But in this day and age where everything is local, what difference does it really make if the facility is close to a school or not? Personally, i think not.

And I noticed some comment about Catholics not being Christians above. That is absurd. The definition of a Christian is someone who follows Christ. The New testament, which is the compendium of Jesus' teachings, is part of our religion, and our religion is based on Christ.

Just like in any other branch of Christianity, all of us may not always be great Christians, but it is offensive to consider us anything other than Christians. it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of Christianity. We were the first Christians....back when we were all Jews.

Anonymous said...

Calling oneself "catholic" (or "christian" for that matter) does not make one a christian. Sadly, too many who "grow up catholic" believe that they are part of the Body of Christ, and they are not disciplined otherwise. Discipline is a broken element of the american church, and it is these who call themselves catholic, but can't explain basics of the faith (let alone believe them/dare live them), who give the church a bad name.

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