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Nettled neighbors

A planned substance-abuse rehab center on N.W. First Street stirs up controversy.

Tim Farley May 8th, 2013

A drug and alcohol rehabilitation center will soon be built on the western outskirts of downtown Oklahoma City, but some residents and business owner remain leery about the project.

Jeff Carter is among the local businesspeople opposing the center location.
Credit: Mark Hancock

Prior to approving a special permit for The Referral Center’s new facility at 1401 N.W. First Street, the Oklahoma City Council heard objections from William McMichael, who has lived on the block for 30 years. He complained that the area already is filled with transients who benefit from such nonprofit as the Jesus House, City Rescue Mission and The Salvation Army.

“These nonprofit organizations are destroying the residential and commercial atmosphere in this neighborhood,” McMichael said. “The nonprofit organizations only treat the symptoms of these poor, unfortunate people.”

He presented a petition signed by 59 people who objected to The Referral Center’s application.

Jeff Carter, owner of Transtate Castings on N.W. First Street, derisively said The Referral Center picked the “perfect place” for a rehab center.

“There’s drugs all over this neighborhood. I wouldn’t be as opposed if the council gave me the money to fence in my property. I wonder how many of these rehab places are located where the councilmen live,” he said. “I know it’s gotta go somewhere, and they’re going to put it in the ghetto.”

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer defended the would-be facility, which will be in her district.

“I consider this to be a positive thing for the neighborhood,” she said. “I’m down there quite a bit, and I see that as a real boost. I felt like they (TRC officials) tried to be very responsive to the neighbors.”

Salyer said she and representatives from The Referral Center held “a couple” meetings with neighbors and business owners in the area.

The new facility also will be situated across the street from the center’s administrative office.

During the April 2 city council meeting, Bill Collins, an attorney representing The Referral Center, emphasized the company’s mission.

“Let me tell you what this is not. This is not a transient facility. This is not a halfway house. This is not a soup kitchen, and this is not a bread line,” he said.

Site of the planned drug referral center
Credit: Mark Hancock

“This is a medical facility that houses people for an approximate 10-day period. After that, they are referred to longer-term treatment centers. They see hundreds of patients a year who get cleaned up and dried out.”

Collins reassured the council that the clients “are not the people who walk the streets around First and McKinley.” About 50 percent of the center’s patients are private pay, he said, while the other half is subsidized through government programs.

“The goal is to be fully privatized,” he said.

The new treatment center will be built at the northwest corner of N.W. First and McKinley Avenue. The two-story brick building will have a contemporary appearance and will be an estimated 27,000 square feet.

The inpatient rooms will house anywhere from one to four people, according to the center’s special permit application.

About 25 people will work at the center, including a doctor, nurses, therapists, counselors, case workers and nonprofessional staff.

Bill Collins
Credit: Mark Hancock

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid praised the efforts of The Referral Center, which has an existing clinic at N.W. 25th and Classen Boulevard.

“They have the best recovery staff Oklahoma City has to offer,” he said. “It has a long track record of doing well with its neighbors.”

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