Itasca panel votes unanimously against Haymarket drug treatment center

  • Haymarket Center is seeking permission from Itasca to convert a former hotel into a drug and alcohol treatment center.

    Haymarket Center is seeking permission from Itasca to convert a former hotel into a drug and alcohol treatment center. Daily Herald file photo

Updated 9/22/2021 9:41 PM

Haymarket Center has suffered a setback in its effort to open a drug and alcohol treatment center in Itasca.

Itasca's plan commission is recommending the village board deny the Chicago-based nonprofit group's proposal to convert a former hotel along Irving Park Road into a 240-bed facility for adult patients with drug and alcohol use disorders.


The advisory panel voted unanimously, 7-0, Wednesday to reject the proposal.

"I have a hard time feeling confident that it will not have a detrimental impact on the village," said Brendan Daly, the plan commission chairman. "There is clearly a need for a project like this in DuPage County, but the scope of the project is concerning. I don't believe the burden has been met by Haymarket to prove there is no effect on EMS moving forward."

The final decision, however, will rest with the village board. A date for when trustees plan to vote on the proposal has not been announced.

Dr. Dan Lustig, president and CEO of Haymarket, said the recommendation was disappointing.

"It's sad because my heart breaks for people affected by substance use disorders," Lustig said. "This state and others are faced with a lack of access. At the end of the day, this is all about saving lives."

The plan commission's recommendation came after it hosted public hearings over nearly two years on Haymarket's proposal. Hundreds of hours of testimony were heard from residents in and around Itasca advocating for and against the proposal.

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Plan commissioner Frank Carello said the proposal could have been approved if the facility was smaller.

Roughly 140 people attended Wednesday night's meeting to hear the panel's recommendation. Residents opposed to the project held a "silent" protest an hour before the meeting began.

If approved, the proposed facility in Itasca would provide a "full continuum of health care services," including primary care, for adults 18 and older. The patients would primarily come from DuPage and other collar counties.

But there's been considerable opposition to the plan from residents who say Itasca is too small to support the proposed facility.

James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca, said Haymarket has not convinced residents that the facility can adequately work for a town of fewer than 10,000 people.

"Our point from the very beginning was to show that there will be a negative impact on our town's EMS services and schools," Diestel said. "I don't think that Haymarket looked for the best location in DuPage."


Opponents say the center would strain police and emergency services. The fire protection district has one ambulance. Haymarket leaders say they have a contract with Elite Ambulance to handle most ambulance calls, calling it equipped to provide coverage.

During a hearing earlier this month, Haymarket's attorney, Bridget O'Keefe, said the process before the plan commission has been unusually long and required more documentation than necessary, likely hurting Haymarket's chances of getting a fair hearing.

O'Keefe said Itasca has more than enough resources to support the facility.

"We understand that concerns have been raised by the residents," she said. "But decisions cannot be based on hypotheticals that may arise in the future."

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