WHEATON – The CEO of an addiction center proposed near the Danada Square East shopping center in Wheaton wants to reassure residents the center will not negatively affect their neighborhood.
"Like in all of our programs, we will have on-site security," Haymarket Center President and CEO Dr. Dan Lustig said. "We will have cameras monitoring the building. We do not take violent offenders, and we do not take sexual perpetrators into our program. So those two populations are expressly forbidden in our company."
Residents have voiced their objections to a proposal to open a 16-bed inpatient addiction treatment center in the former Loyola University Medical Center office building at 140 E. Loop Road. They have voiced concerns the facility would increase crime in the area and decrease property values.
Haymarket DuPage would be run by the Chicago-based Haymarket Center, which has treatment facilities in Chicago and Waukegan. The proposed center also would provide outpatient care.
The city's Planning and Zoning Board continues to review the proposal. The board will again take public comments about the project during its meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St.
The need for such a facility in DuPage County is great, Lustig said.
In DuPage County, there were 51 deaths in 2015 attributed to opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription pills, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said last month, in announcing lawsuits against the biggest opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers in an attempt to recoup costs of battling an epidemic of addiction. In 2016, that number rose to 78, and last year, there were more than 80 deaths attributable to opioids, he said.
"One of the things that's really important for Haymarket Center in our long history of providing treatment is going where the need is," Lustig said. "What we're hoping to gain is to provide comprehensive treatment to those who need it. What we're hoping to do is be able to increase access to care for a county that really has had a opioid epidemic at its center for the last couple of years."
The facility will serve primarily DuPage County residents, he said.
"I don't have a need to bus people from the city out to DuPage County," Lustig said. "That's not what our mission is. Our mission is to serve DuPage residents."
Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, who previously served on the Wheaton City Council, has come out in support of the project. She recently toured the Haymarket facility in Chicago.
"This residential and outpatient substance abuse facility has been on the front lines of addiction and treatment since 1975," Sanguinetti said in a letter to the City Council. "I was impressed by their work and consider them a strong ally in the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic."
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1975. Its main location in Chicago is a 400-bed residential complex in the Fulton Market neighborhood. Lustig said the center has blended into the neighborhood well.
During the Planning and Zoning Board's Dec. 12, 2017, meeting, Danada East resident Angela Welker was among those voicing her opposition to the project.
"I would advise extreme caution in creating a new special use for residential substance abuse treatment facilities to operate in commercial areas," Welker said at the meeting. "This industry is not well regulated, and there are certainly no laws in Wheaton that apply specifically to residential treatment facilities or anything of the like."
Wheaton resident and pulmonary nurse Loretta Odom plans to speak at the Jan. 9 meeting in support of the proposed treatment center. Her brother, Michael Sahara, suffered a drug-induced stroke a few years ago that left him without the use of his right arm. In addition, he walks with a limp and has speech problems.
"It's taken away a lot of his independence," Odom said. "He lives in an apartment, but he has roommates that basically take care of him."
A 1976 Glenbard West High School graduate, Sahara started experimenting with drugs while in high school, she said.
"I have seen addiction personally and professionally," Odom said. "If there was something like this possibly in place when my brother was in high school, maybe it would not have gone this far for him. We need something."