Elgin City Council members said they would welcome a for-profit, inpatient treatment center for addiction and mental health issues because there is a need for that locally and across the country.
Council members gave the initial OK Wednesday night to a zoning change designed to allow Footprints to Recovery to open at 411 W. River Road and serve adults struggling with substance abuse, depression, anxiety, trauma and eating disorders. The 3.48-acre property is home to the nonprofit International Teams, which plans to sell the property and look for a new location in Elgin.
"There's people out there that really do need it, and I see the facility as just a perfect match," Councilman Toby Shaw said.
Residents of the nearby Riverside Manor subdivision object to the plan. At a meeting of the planning and zoning commission in November, they cited concerns about property values and questioned the background of the company, which runs outpatient centers in Arlington Heights and New Jersey.
Attorney Ken Shepro represents about two dozen residents, along with nearby Providence Baptist College. Shepro said his clients put in "several months of intense work and research" and submitted to the city documents showing that in 2014 the New Jersey Department of Human Services deemed that Footprints was providing residential services with an outpatient license. Footprints appealed and reached a settlement in March 2017, documents show.
Elgin Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said he has no concerns regarding Footprints.
Footprints CEO Hirsch Chinn said the other two facilities have treated more than 1,000 clients and received the "gold standard" form The Joint Commission, which provides accreditation. Chinn said the overdose death of his best friend prompted him four years ago to get into the business.
Chinn said financing comes from New Jersey-based Tryko Partners; the group also finances nursing homes across the country, but those have nothing to do with Footprints, he said.
The petition submitted in Elgin by Brooktree Woodstock IL LLC calls for a 6-foot fence around the two-story, 52,000-square-foot facility. The building already contains dormitories -- initially designed for the nonprofit's missionaries -- that would accommodate up to 94 patients with an average stay of two to four weeks.
Patients would be voluntary and would not be sedated, residential coordinator Autumn Aumann said. They would have private insurance or pay out-of-pocket, and the facility would get no state or federal funding, she said.
Shepro said that would preclude most people with substance abuse issues from affording treatment.
"Where is the benefit to the community? By and large the people affected would not be admitted at this facility," Shepro said.
Former Elgin fire chief John Fahy spoke on behalf of Footprints, saying it would also offer rare and much-needed mental health treatment for first emergency responders dealing with traumatic situations. The facility in Arlington Heights opened two years ago and there have been only three ambulance calls at that address since 2011, he said. The Elgin facility would contract with a private ambulance service.
Councilman Rich Dunne was the only "no" vote Wednesday but made no comments publicly.
Councilman Rose Martinez acknowledged residents' concerns. "It's a tough one for me. As a community we know there is an epidemic with substance abuse and mental health, and here we have an opportunity (to address it)."