Addiction center in western ND postponed following heated city meeting
BEACH, N.D. — A San Diego-based real estate agent will have to wait a while longer to find out if his proposed drug addiction and recovery center will receive permission to operate in Beach.
Residents of Beach attended a city meeting Friday night, Sept. 14, and listened to the conceptual proposal of DESCO Behavioral Health Systems LLC to renovate the old hospital into a volunteer-admission drug rehabilitation center, catering to patients from eight nearby states.
A team of four, led by Don Sturtevant, vaguely outlined plans to turn the western North Dakota city into a model for "healing the lives of addicts through the miracle of recovery."
Approximately 100 people attended the city meeting, and many were concerned that the endeavor sounded "scrupulous and downright nefarious" after many critical details were seemingly ignored during the presentation.
"Addiction, in the substance abuse sense, is a complex issue with no easy fixes or answers," Sturtevant began. "We want North Dakota to be a forerunner of drug addiction recovery."
The contention began shortly after Sturtevant opened the floor to questions. A Beach resident and medical professional, Jodi Ebel, argued that holding a detox center in Beach bordered on being medically unethical considering the distance to hospitals, extreme winter weather conditions preventing highway usage and elevated risks of medical emergencies during detox.
She also raised serious questions about what Sturtevant's rehab center would clinically entail.
Citing a "disconcertingly foggy" presentation, Ebel asked, "What evidence-based rehabilitation system will you be using, what level of clinical qualifications will you be using, and have you reviewed North Dakota regulations and requirements on housing a drug abuse rehabilitation center?"
Sturtevant responded that they will provide "many types" of evidence-based care, but did not elaborate further. The vague answer drew the ire of residents and prompted others in the room to respond with questions of their own.
"You keep saying evidence-based care, but haven't detailed what that care entails," a young mother in the front asked. Sturtevant did not have a chance to respond before another question pelted him.
"What happens when people don't want to stay, but they can't afford to get back to their home states away?" An elderly resident asked. "We are a small, close-knit community, are there going to be people roaming our streets?"
Sturtevant explained that they would escort patients who didn't want treatment to the airport, but admitted that ultimately they couldn't force anyone to do anything they didn't want to do.
"My daughter lives near that old hospital and we've never had to lock our doors in Beach, are we going to have to lock up our homes now?" A different resident asked after Sturtevant admitted there would be no legal grounds to force people to remain in the center who wished to leave.
"It doesn't sound like you have your ducks in a row here," a resident said while standing to leave.
"He doesn't even have the number to the guy who sells ducks!" another man shouted as he, too, began to leave.
The exchange between residents and Sturtevant remained heated as they continued to demand details of the center and whether the planning board should proceed with the conceptual review.
"Look, I don't have all the answers," Sturtevant admitted. "That's why I'm here. I have the money, the desire and the building needed to see this become a reality. I need your help and guidance to do this."
Ebel responded, "Your intentions may be good, and the need is certainly there for rehabilitation centers, but you just haven't done enough to satisfy our questions. You haven't done your homework before coming here today."
Sturtevant apologized for the misunderstandings.
"I don't have all your answers; I'm not a medical professional," he said. "I'm sorry that I can't answer these questions, but I want to eliminate the shame and stigma associated with treatment and together we can do this here in Beach."
After reviewing printed handouts then provided by Sturtevant aimed at easing the tension and addressing some of the clinical concerns, residents raised more questions about the document's suggested Nov. 1, 2018, opening date for the rehabilitation center.
Following those comments, many in attendance left the meeting and gathered outside where discussions continued. Inside, Sturtevant closed the meeting with some choice words.
"Maybe we'll have to push our November date back a few months, but we're going to do everything we can to run this rehab center in Beach, one way or another," Sturtevant said to the dispersing crowd. "I'll host another city meeting in a few weeks when we have more answers to the questions raised here today."