Treatment center near Campton Hills hopes neighbors eventually will come around
No one wanted an addiction treatment center at the former Glenwood School site just outside Campton Hills. Neighbors didn't want it. Kane County officials didn't want it. Campton Hills officials didn't want it.
But the addiction center will open as soon as this spring, and its new owners believe, over time, neighbors and local leaders will see it as a place that helps people they see in their everyday lives.
Recovery Centers of America formed on the East Coast in 2016, in response to the growing need for addiction treatment created by the opioid epidemic. It is backed by a more than $300 million investment from the Deerfield Management Co., a New York-based healthcare investment management firm.
In just a few years, Recovery Centers of America has opened facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland, and employed nearly 1,500 people. Now it wants to expand into the Midwest, with the former Glenwood School property being one of its first sites in the market.
Company officials know they won't receive a warm welcome. That's thanks to two years of emotional public hearings, heated votes and lawsuit settlements, paving the way for the Glenwood School site, by a court decree, to become a virtually unstoppable site for an addiction treatment center. The figure at the center of that turmoil, Maxxam, sold the property to Recovery Centers of America after the final bang of the judicial gavel.
Since then, Recovery Centers of America has worked with Kane County on the permitting and infrastructure work needed to get the site ready to take on as many as 120 patients. Local officials are resigned to that fate.
County board member Barb Wojnicki was one of the leading voices against an addiction treatment center at the Glenwood property. She believes the neighborhood, narrow roads and relative distance to any sort of hospital or emergency services will hinder the success of a treatment center.
She sat in on a private meeting between the county staff and Recovery Centers of America after the company purchased the property.
"We had a lot of questions for them, but at this point there's no turning back," Wojnicki said. "So we just hope for the best."
One of the other leading opponents of the Maxxam treatment facility was the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. Officials there said they didn't have the manpower, equipment or finances to accommodate the expected volume of emergency calls. But Ken Shepro, the attorney for the fire district, said he's optimistic Recovery Centers of America will at least be a better neighbor than Maxxam would have been.
Shepro said the fire district and Recovery Centers of America are nearing an agreement that would resolve just about all of the concerns the fire district had about Maxxam. That includes, for instance, a deal for Recovery Centers of America to pay the fire district directly for emergency service calls instead of the patients or their insurers.
"Many of the causes of the distrust were about it not appearing that Maxxam knew what they were doing with this type of treatment facility," Shepro said. "This new group is a much more professional operation."
Recovery Centers of America officials said they are dedicated not only to running a professional operation, but also to becoming part of the community. To that end, they expect to hire up to 200 local people to work at the treatment center and pay a six-figure property tax bill to local governments.
Dr. Deni Carise, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Recovery Centers of America, said the facility will have a high-quality resort feel. Officials will host meetings with the community and open doors for tours and questions in the lead-up to the start of operations.
Once open, there will also be spaces, with separate entrances, for community meetings, support groups, police workshops and even chamber of commerce meetings.
"We want to be part of the community," Carise said. "We don't want to be isolated. We don't want to be impinging on it. We want to be a resource to the community."
Carise said it's important for people to realize the patients at the facility are just like everyone who lives in the area.
"These are sick people who want to get well, not bad people who need to become good," Carise said. "These are people, by and large, who are working folks. We don't contract with the jail. We are not a place in lieu of incarceration. We are a place that your neighbors, your teachers, your doctors, your postal workers will go to get quality treatments."