After long wait, Itasca reconvenes Haymarket Center hearings, and opponents quickly rally
For more than a year, Haymarket Center has tried to confront the growing opioid crisis in DuPage County by launching addiction treatment services in a former Itasca hotel.
Haymarket leaders have sought to focus attention on efforts to save lives through a holistic approach to treatment.
But a long-delayed public hearing Wednesday night only renewed a dispute over plans to turn a shuttered Holiday Inn into a 240-bed treatment center for people with substance-use disorders.
A car rally earlier Wednesday paraded past the hotel site, which Haymarket now owns, in a display of resident opposition before the village livestreamed the plan commission meeting because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The opposition group insists Itasca, a town of less than 10,000, lacks the infrastructure to support a treatment center that would serve roughly 4,750 patients a year.
Questions about ambulance services have dogged Haymarket, while advocates say having a treatment center in Itasca would provide accessible care within DuPage communities.
"This is really about stigma, and it's not really about the facts and the data that support what this program looks like and the impact on the village and the fire protection district," Haymarket executive Karen Kissel said.
The center would fill treatment gaps, especially for patients who do not have insurance, are underinsured or who have Medicaid, proponents say.
With limited treatment options now, those patients detox in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing, and then they're "back out on the street again," repeating the cycle, said Dr. Daniel Sullivan, chief medical officer of Edward-Elmhurst Health.
"Unfortunately, there's not enough places in DuPage County to take care of those types of patients," Sullivan said during Wednesday's hearing.
Haymarket leaders say they have a contract with Elite Ambulance to handle most ambulance calls.
As a result, the proposed treatment center would require 55 to 73 police responses and 18 to 26 fire and EMS calls each year, according to an analysis by former Wilmette Fire Chief James Dominik. Haymarket released Dominik's report in August along with an amended zoning application after purchasing the hotel property.
Dominik based his analysis on nearly a dozen treatment facilities and recovery homes that "provide similar licensed services to those proposed for Haymarket DuPage."
Of the 240 beds, 144 are designated "recovery home beds" for patients who have completed an intensive detox and inpatient treatment process. Those beds generate "significantly fewer" calls overall than treatment beds, Dominik wrote.
He noted seven recovery homes in his review had 12 EMS calls over a multiple-year period.
"This leads to the conclusion that Haymarket DuPage will, similarly, generate only a negligible call volume related to recovery home beds," the 119-page report stated.
James Diestel, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Itasca group, argues the public safety analysis isn't an apples-to-apples comparison because the 11 recovery and treatment homes that were studied are smaller-scale facilities. An Amita Health residential treatment center in Elk Grove Village has the most total beds, 48, in the group.
"If you add up all 11 of those, it still doesn't number the 240 beds that we're talking about that's being proposed to Itasca," Diestel said.
He has said he has a hard time believing Haymarket wouldn't request a village ambulance when the fire station is just down the street. The Itasca Fire Protection District has one ambulance.
But an on-site medical team of doctors and nurses are essentially the first responders at Haymarket, triaging and assessing patients, said Dr. Dan Lustig, Haymarket's president and CEO.
The medical team, not a layperson, would decide whether to call a village or Elite ambulance in an emergency, Lustig said.
The hearing kicked off with Lustig resuming his testimony after a nearly yearlong hiatus, first because of a lawsuit Haymarket filed against the village that was eventually dismissed, and then because of coronavirus lockdowns.
The project, supporters say, has taken on added urgency after DuPage County recorded 70 overdose deaths in the first six months of this year, compared to 46 over the same period in 2019.