Mayor, Haymarket CEO spar on Itasca treatment center
Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn told business leaders Tuesday a proposed addiction treatment center has become a thorny issue hampering village government, but he acknowledged he knew about the plans for months before the project became public in a June Daily Herald article.
Pruyn has avoided saying whether he will side with opponents of the Haymarket Center facility. But he spent part of his State of the Village address repeating some of their concerns and expressing frustration with the ongoing search for a venue large enough to hold the expected turnout for the first public hearing on Haymarket's bid to convert a Holiday Inn into what he called a 272-bed treatment center.
Also Tuesday, Haymarket President and CEO Dan Lustig spoke to the county board "to address some of the misinformation" about the provider's request and to reaffirm the need for a recovery center in DuPage.
The plan commission last week had to call off the first Haymarket meeting when overflow crowds amounting to about 18% of the town's population packed Peacock Junior High School, considered the largest public space in Itasca. The village postponed the hearing to Oct. 2, but the task of finding an alternative venue that's convenient for residents and fiscally responsible for the village is "nearly impossible," Pruyn said.
"The mere fact alone that this is putting a heavy weight on our village's staff and checkbook echoes the same sentiment we're all concerned about with the Haymarket proposal," Pruyn said. "What kind of strain would Haymarket's 272-bed facility have on our village? And those are questions that we don't have all the answers to yet because we're missing facts from Haymarket."
Pruyn told the Daily Herald he did not advise Haymarket leaders to look to another town when they first approached him in April. Haymarket more than a year ago faced "not in my backyard" protests against a failed bid to operate a 16-bed satellite program in Wheaton.
"I'm a tax accountant and they came to my office on April 11 to kind of spring this on me," Pruyn said. "And my thought at that time when they first said it is, you know, just let me get through the next week and we'll set up a meeting with staff and go through the process, which we've done. ... I didn't know what to really expect because again we didn't even have all the facts on the facility or the impacts it could have on us at the time."
Pruyn said he's reserving judgment on Haymarket's plans because he's "still gathering facts." He said the village has questions about Haymarket's emergency medical services data and its offer to contract a private ambulance service to handle calls in Itasca.
The village's fire protection district has just one ambulance and needed voters to approve a property tax hike last fall to help balance its budget.
Lustig, meanwhile, said Haymarket has submitted multiple pages of responses "trying to answer as many" of the mayor's questions as possible concerning what he said would be a 200-bed facility.
"Prior to submitting zoning applications, Haymarket met with the following people: First and foremost we met with the mayor," Lustig said. "We felt it was important to get an understanding working with the mayor and his staff about what were the strengths and weaknesses of first responders and so forth.
"We met with state legislators, the DuPage County Board members, Itasca fire district chief and his director, the Itasca police chief, the DuPage County Health Department, DuPage sheriff, DuPage County state's attorney, the HOPE (Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education) Taskforce, religious leaders, foundations, hospitals and medical providers."
Haymarket wants to refurbish the Holiday Inn -- first brought up for sale in 2016, Lustig said -- to house hundreds of patients with substance abuse disorders at a time when advocates say there is a rising demand for services. Almost 100 people died from overdoses in DuPage last year. More than 2,000 residents from DuPage and other collar counties were patients at Haymarket clinics from 2017 to 2018.
"We chose Itasca because the building we looked at was a perfect turnkey fit for us to hit the ground running on the impact of not just the opioid epidemic, but how DuPage will aggressively treat all substance use disorders and mental health disorders in the county," Lustig said.
He said all of Haymarket Center's patients undergo a background check.
"No violent criminals or sex offenders are admitted into our facility," he said.
Lustig said some of the data being requested is "quite exhaustive, like five years of 911 data," adding that it takes time to get that information and more time to analyze it.
Still, he said, there are those who continue to say that Haymarket isn't responding to questions.
"We are responding to questions as quickly as possible," Lustig said.
But he added, "My first mission is to treat and save people's lives, and not necessarily answer information."
When it comes to the impact on village resources, Lustig said Haymarket Center is "trying to be a very strong partner with Itasca."
"We have retained a private ambulance service who does and will provide not only basic life and safety, but advance life and safety," he said. "So when we keep hearing over and over again that they're not going to do that, that's simply not true."
If the Haymarket project doesn't happen, he said the hotel is still "going away" and there will be a loss of property taxes.
So he said his hope is to work with Itasca to address the issues related to the project.
"At the end of the day, it is a basic human right for individuals to receive treatment close to home," Lustig said.