Planning commission hears opioid treatment plan proposal

By Dean Wright -

CHOICES representative Nick Pape speaks of the potential of putting an opioid treatment center on Pine Avenue with the Gallipolis Planning Commission.

GALLIPOLIS — The Gallipolis Planning Commission reviewed a site plan Tuesday to discuss potentially making an exception for a non-residential opioid treatment facility in a neighborhood commercial zone to be housed on Pine Street in a leased location.

Area engineer Randy Breech said during the meeting he will be serving as the project engineer for the facility and that the building in question the program would be housed in met code specifications. The major roadblock in getting the program running was that it would need to be placed in a neighborhood commercial zone.

“I represent CHOICES (CHOICES Behavioral Health Care),” said organization representative Nick Pape. “We are an outpatient facility. Basically, how our structure works is we see individuals that do have an addiction. We handle everybody addicted from heroin to opiates and that’s really about it. We’ve not broken into more alcoholic treatment. Yet, that is coming soon, perhaps by the end of the year.”

Pape said the program would receive individuals from referral sources. Pape claimed the organization’s marketing techniques were geared more towards referrals within the community. Patients will then meet with a physician and have a case manager. A treatment plan would then be decided upon.

CHOICES representatives said the facility would not be housing patients as a residential facility. Once a patient had been to an emergency room or detoxification facility, they could attend the CHOICES program. Representatives claimed drugs would not be kept on-site but that prescriptions would need to be taken to a pharmacy for medications to be filled. The CHOICES representatives said they felt the program could be described more as a counseling effort.

Reportedly, there are eight locations throughout Ohio with locations in Toledo, Cleveland and Middletown.

“We’re here to serve the community and get the addicts off the street and get them back into a home place where they feel like they’re actually human,” said Pape.

Board member Troy Johnson asked if Suboxone would be in use among the patients of the program. CHOICES representatives answered yes. The program does make use of drugs like Suboxone and Vivitrol in its treatment efforts. The program would not make use of methadone. Representatives said their program took care to not be labelled as a pill mill and did not operate as such.

Area land owner Bill Davis expressed concern with such a facility near his properties.

“I’m greatly concerned,” said Davis. “I invest $600,000 in living facilities. They invest $30,000 (in facility upgrades). I’m investing in other things in Gallipolis. I’m here…We’ve got enough addicts to deal with in Gallipolis to start with. If you check with the police department, I’m sure they can tell you more about it than I can. They’ve got enough addicts without importing them in to get treated. Everybody needs to be treated. That’s fine. We’ve got Woodland Centers out there and other places. I just feel like those guys (CHOICES) are all about the dollar and it’s not Gallipolis’ dollar. It’s their dollar.”

Davis said he felt the town should do better than what he called a drug addiction center. He felt he would lose value in investments with the facility nearby.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to tell (renters) it’s fine, we’re going to run people who are addicted through your yard,” said Davis.

Area landowner Lynn Angell expressed concern the program might increase pills brought into the community and whether the program’s patients would be tested to make certain they were making use of their medications properly.

“We give the patient a toxicology test every two days,” said Pape. “The way our program works is a little different than what I believe you guys have experienced throughout the state…We actually have strict four phase program. During phase one, obviously, we’re a lot more on top of the patient. There is a drug test every two days. There’s three times a week they have to do it. They will only get enough medication to last them those two days.”

As patients reportedly get into phase three and four, representatives of CHOICES claim the medication is “toned down” as well as drug testing. Patients reportedly help through the centers to assist other addicts going through phase one and two.

Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene asked the representatives if they could provide references from other town governments the CHOICES program had worked with. He said he had called a few of the other towns in which a CHOICES program was located and had little luck thus far in contacting a city official who had experience working with CHOICES employees. The representatives said they could do that.

Ultimately, the planning commission put the discussion on hold and told the CHOICES representatives they would contact them after discussion among the commission.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

CHOICES representative Nick Pape speaks of the potential of putting an opioid treatment center on Pine Avenue with the Gallipolis Planning Commission. representative Nick Pape speaks of the potential of putting an opioid treatment center on Pine Avenue with the Gallipolis Planning Commission.

By Dean Wright