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Standing in the recreation/dining room, three officials from Amatus Health discuss a proposed Medicaid inpatient substance abuse treatment center the company plans to open at 111-113 S. Potomac St. The room is on the third floor of the building. From left are Mike Mittleman, outreach coordinator; Nicholas Albaugh, director of licensing and compliance; and Michael Silberman, co-founder and CEO.
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Hagerstown residents won’t notice much change when a proposed inpatient substance abuse treatment center opens downtown, Amatus Health officials said Friday.
Meanwhile, Hagerstown’s mayor and two city council members said they could support the center, depending upon how it is run and how it affects downtown revitalization.
A half-dozen Amatus Health officials led a tour of the three-story building at 111-113 S. Potomac St. Friday afternoon. The company hopes to open the facility by Dec. 1.
Amatus plans to serve Medicaid patients at the Hagerstown building.
“It’s going to look the exact same way as it looked when it wasn’t being used for the past year,” said Nicholas Albaugh, Amatus’ director of licensing and compliance.
‘Living here for a month’
Albaugh said the building’s historic facade will remain, and residents will not congregate in front.
A privacy fence will be put up around a parking area behind the building, he said. Residents will have access to that area for outdoor recreation and smoke breaks.
Most recently the building served as a dormitory for Chinese students studying in the region. Albaugh said changes made for the dormitory match well with a treatment center’s needs.
The first two floors include meeting rooms, offices and dormitory-style bedrooms, complete with beds. There also are communal, restrooms and shower facilities that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and laundry facilities.
Women will stay on the first floor and men will be on the second floor, Albaugh said.
The third floor houses a kitchen and a recreation/dining area.
The building has an elevator, a sprinkler system, smoke alarms and emergency lighting.
Having the area behind the building and the recreation room on the third floor will be important to clients, said Michael Silberman, co-founder and chief operating officer of Amatus.
“They are our residents,” he said. “They are living here for a month.”
Clients will spend an average of 30 days in the treatment center. The center will employ about two dozen people, he said, including a psychiatrist.
‘What is a good location?’
“I don’t have a negative reaction to it,” Mayor Bob Bruchey said about plans for the center. “I believe it is definitely needed in our area.”
He said local residents should be “first served” at the treatment center.
Bruchey said the facility, if operated well, won’t detract from the neighborhood.
“What I know of inpatient treatment centers is you are relegated to being in there, being treated,” he said.
He said he hoped to meet with Silberman soon to share his concerns.
Councilman Lew Metzner said Amatus Health had not talked to city officials and he did not have enough information to comment.
A key point, is said, is how “inpatient” is defined and put into action.
“In general, however, we would like to not have halfway houses or outpatient programs of certain natures in our downtown central core. That doesn’t seem the most appropriate place,” he said.
At the same time, “it is very difficult to complain that we have this terrible opioid crisis then to say ‘not in my backyard'” to treatment centers, Metzner said.
He said Kevin Simmers and others behind Brooke’s House made a prudent decision to locate the facility outside the city, off Downsville Pike. Brooke’s House will be a sober-living facility for women.
“I’m for almost anybody who wants to do almost anything as far as treatment for our community’s citizens,” Metzner said. He added that it has “always been a concern” that many people who come to use such services are not from the community.
City Councilwoman Emily Keller said, “I understand the concern about putting a treatment center downtown with all the revitalization. But the reality is it’s so needed.
“Wherever you put a treatment center, there’s going to be a reaction. And the fact is downtown is accessible.”
She added: “If it’s run properly,” the center downtown could be a good thing, if patients are successful and become productive citizens.
Although some have expressed concerns that having the center downtown could expose patients to more temptation to use again, Keller said, “I think that it’s everywhere. I think if you’re an addict and you’re determined to get it, you will find it.”
Keller recalled that there had been discussion of putting a treatment center at Western Maryland Hospital Center, “which was equipped to be a hospital, and there was a backlash. What is a good location?”
“We should focus on the fact that it’s happening and people are going to get the help they’re needing,” she said.
Written by Mike Lewis
Content Originally posted on HeraldMailMedia.com