Itasca fire chief, Haymarket lawyers disagree about 911 calls from proposed treatment center

Itasca's fire chief is standing by his view that a proposed drug and alcohol treatment center would significantly increase the number of emergency medical service calls in the village.

Still, lawyers representing Haymarket Center insist the planned facility wouldn't place a burden on the fire protection district.

Haymarket Center is seeking permission from Itasca to convert a former hotel along Irving Park Road into a 240-bed facility for adult patients with substance use disorders.

The village's plan commission is holding a series of public hearings on the proposal. Eventually, the panel will make a recommendation to the village board, which has the final say.

Earlier this month, Itasca Fire Protection District Chief James Burke testified that the proposed facility would cause a 23% percent increase in EMS calls. He estimated the total number of EMS calls in the village could climb by 379 a year.

But when Burke was cross-examined this week, one of Haymarket's lawyers said Haymarket is trying to lessen the burden on the fire district. The Itasca location, for example, won't provide some services offered at Haymarket's West Loop facility. Additionally, Haymarket expects to see fewer homeless patients in the suburbs who would require more medical care.

Burke disagreed, saying it's his understanding the Itasca and Chicago locations would offer similar services.

Haymarket officials have said a private ambulance service would handle most of the Itasca facility's medical emergencies. Still, Burke says he's concerned because the fire protection district only has one ambulance.

During recent hearings, an expert hired by Haymarket said the fire protection district would have the capacity to cover the most critical emergency calls from the treatment center.

Former Wilmette Fire Chief James Dominik testified the treatment center would require 18 to 26 fire and EMS calls to Itasca each year. On average, the district responds to 1,636 calls per year - the second-lowest volume out of a dozen area departments.

James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca group, stands behind Burke's assessment and believes that the scope of the project is too much for the village to handle.

"Haymarket is trying to downplay impact to make their proposal look better when they should present correct information and work with Itasca to find a solution," Diestel said.

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