Council considers permit for treatment facility

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council considered a special use permit for a group treatment facility located at 99 Johnson Street.

The mission for the center run by Next Cross Road ministry has changed between the time it was initially proposed on Alford Street in January and when it was proposed on Johnson Street in August. However, Tuesday was the first time that many on the council were made aware of a change. According to those involved with the project, the ministry will now focus specifically on helping women overcome trauma. The group’s organizers initially heard some community concern over the possibility of any type of rehabilitation center at that location but assured the city council that the treatment center would not be used for that purpose.

“The whole goal of what we are doing here is, we are not a rehab facility,” said Dr. Kelly Veal, a local psychiatrist and LaGrange College professor who specializes in trauma. “We really got a bad rap. Some people got some bad information saying that we were a rehab or a halfway house. That is not what we are at all. They are not accepting women who are actively in addiction. They have to be sober and have completed a treatment program before they can come to us. Our goal is to heal the core issue and the reason why they began to use drugs in the first place, and that is usually trauma.”

If the Johnson Street location is approved, the program would take place in two of the four buildings at that address, and Twin Cedars would maintain use of the remaining two buildings.

The special use permit was taken off the council’s approval list in August to give program organizers the opportunity to discuss the purpose of the program with residents.

“I participated in the survey in the community, and we got a wonderful response,” said Yvonne Lopez of Ark Refuge Ministries. “Out of all the people that we talked to, I think we only had two who didn’t really know either way if it would be a good thing or not, but everybody was very supportive of it. This community has in great need of something for women and kids. Being that we deal with men at the Ark, we get calls all the time for women and children and we just don’t have anywhere to place them.”

According to Veal, the center will also be open to children who have experienced trauma that could result in substance abuse or crimes later in life.

“This has blown up into this great project where we are partnering with Calumet, and part of our initiative is community collaboration,” Veal said. “I spent weeks pouring over this document, and I am so excited and energized, and in fact I am on their board now in Calumet. Pastor Mike (Roland) is now on our board for the center for healing and attachment, and we are working together with the Calumet community to bring this vision into a reality. We want to add to the community, not take away.”

The council has previously heard support of the program from community leaders from the neighborhood including Dr. Robert Tucker and Sheri Cody. Pastor Michael Roland, a community leader in the Calumet neighborhood, also stood with those who explained the program at the meeting.

The proposed location was previously used for a program to help pregnant teens, which would have operated under similar requirements, but any change in use or ownership requires a new special use permit to come before the city council.

“To give you some history, the location has been used historically for group treatment as part of the Twin Cedars program,” City Planner Leigh Threadgill said. “They have been using that specifically to provide a program for teen mothers, pregnant teens. I believe that that was current through the end of last year, so it very recently ceased, and at that point I think Next Cross Road was looking for an alternative location for what they were planning on establishing at some other locations in the city, and this seemed like a good opportunity.”

The program will also be reducing the number of women allowed to participate in the program from previous numbers.

“It would be a group treatment facility again just be a change in programing from the pregnant teens to a program that just deals in women and is specifically related to women who have experienced a trauma,” Threadgill said. “They are planning on reducing the number or women in the treatment program. It was 16.”

According to Threadgill, there will be someone who stays on the property overnight, and the women in the program are expected to work during the day. However, some council members still had reservations on opening the facility at that location.

“The people that I talked to just don’t want to have another treatment center in District 2,” said Councilmember Legree McCamey who represents District 2. “That is the issue. It is not so much what type of treatment center it is.”

The public hearing on Jan. 9 will likely play heavily into the council’s final decision on whether or not to grant the special use permit. The public hearing will be held at 208 Ridley Avenue at 5:30 p.m.