Itasca residents still worry about 911 calls from proposed rehab center

  • More than 500 Itasca residents attended a Monday night public hearing on Haymarket Center's proposal to open an addiction treatment center in their village.

      More than 500 Itasca residents attended a Monday night public hearing on Haymarket Center's proposal to open an addiction treatment center in their village. Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/29/2019 4:54 PM

Itasca residents concerned about Haymarket Center's proposal to open an addiction treatment center say they don't believe the group's claim that the facility would rarely use the town's only ambulance.

Haymarket officials insist their plan to convert a Holiday Inn into a 240-bed facility wouldn't strain Itasca's police and emergency services. In fact, the Chicago-based nonprofit's CFO, James Baldwin, said during a Monday public hearing that the fire protection district's one ambulance would be called only if there was "an emergency affecting the health and safety of the patient."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Baldwin said a private ambulance service is expected to handle "90 percent" of the advanced life safety and basic life safety calls from the proposed Haymarket DuPage facility. As a result, he said, the total number of emergency calls requiring a response from police or firefighters is projected to be 33 a year -- 13 for fire/EMS and 20 for police.

In comparison, Haymarket officials say there are 49 emergency calls a year from the Holiday Inn.

On Tuesday, residents hoping to block Haymarket's proposal said the projected number of 911 calls seems too low.

"The suggestion that a facility treating people with high susceptibility to seizure, heart attack and other major medical events would somehow have equal to or fewer than the number of calls as a Holiday Inn hotel is laughable at best," said Dustin Sneath, an administrator of the "No Itasca Haymarket" Facebook group.

Haymarket wants to refurbish the hotel to house hundreds of patients with substance-use disorders at a time when advocates say there is a rising demand for services. There were 98 opioid-related deaths last year in DuPage.

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But opponents say Itasca is too small to support a 240-bed facility. In addition to costing the town tax revenue, they say the demand for police and emergency services would be too much.

Residents have said there were 863 emergency calls requiring a response from Haymarket's Chicago location in a single year. The information was gathered through a FOIA request.

But after obtaining and analyzing the same data, Haymarket officials say the actual number of calls was 338. They said there were several reasons for the discrepancy, including instances where individual calls were given multiple service codes.

Haymarket officials used the 338 number as a starting point to come up with their estimate for emergency and nonemergency calls from the proposed Itasca facility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They said Itasca will have fewer calls for two reasons. First, it would be smaller than the 400-bed complex in Chicago and have fewer clients and a smaller medical detox program. Second, the proposed facility wouldn't handle patients with co-occurring serious mental illness.

Haymarket officials project the Itasca facility will have 142 emergency and nonemergency calls each year. The private ambulance service would respond to most of them.

But Jennifer Kepp-Muzzo said Haymarket officials discounted most of the information residents obtained.

"While I accept there could be some errors in the 911 data received, it strains credulity to accept that the majority of the information was inaccurate," the Itasca resident said. "The key here is they made several adjustments based on assumptions that were not clearly explained."

She said she disputes Haymarket's estimate until it "can provide a sound mathematical reason for these choices."

Meanwhile, resident James Diestel said he has a hard time believing Haymarket won't call 911 when the fire station is just down the street.

"Why would you use a private ambulance service ... when you have Itasca's ambulance, which can be there in minutes to address a life-threatening situation?" Diestel said. "When dealing with emergencies, the quickest form of treatment is what should be used."

Mayor Jeff Pruyn, who attended Monday's meeting, didn't respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman said Pruyn is refraining from commenting because Haymarket is presenting before the plan commission.

Itasca Fire Protection District Chief James Burke said the district will review Haymarket's numbers before the next meeting, which is planned for Nov. 6 at Peacock Middle School in Itasca.

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