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Summit County

Neighbors question number of staff, patients in group home proposal

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When this building was BeeHive Homes of Park City, it housed 16 people. A proposal for a new treatment facility calls for 32 clients.

Highland Estates area residents came out to offer feedback to a Summit County planning commission on plans for a 32-patient treatment facility. Commenters questioned the number of staff, the number of patients and whether it would make the neighborhood less safe.

The comments from neighbors grew emotional at times at a public hearing on Tuesday. Some said they were medical professionals with experience treating substance use disorder; others shared individual connections to addiction and its effects.

The highly personal input differed from what planning commissioners frequently hear from residents opposing development in their neighborhood for reasons like traffic and congestion, though those concerns were raised as well.

The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission was considering a conditional use permit request for a property on Highland Drive to be used as a treatment facility called Wasatch Crest for people dealing with addiction. The 11,000-square-foot building has 16 bedrooms and was previously the BeeHive Homes of Park City assisted living facility. Commissioners delayed a decision on the application, suggesting they would visit the site and wanted to hear more about the programming from relevant health experts.

According to the county, the commission is barred by state and federal law from denying the application based on the fact that the property would be used as a group home. The commission can, however, implement conditions on the permit that would make the project less impactful on its neighbors.

Wasatch Crest CEO James Huffman said there would be two components of the program: a short-term detox stay of one to seven days and a separate 30- to 90-day program for people further along in recovery. Huffman said there would be up to 32 patients with two to five staff members on site, and he said the program doesn’t allow clients who have violent records.

One consistent line of questioning from neighbors focused on the number of staffers that would be present on-site. Sam Imrie said she works at a local hospital and acknowledged the need for a detox facility in the community.

“So my question is, how do we plan to staff this?” Imrie said. “When I work in the ICU with detoxing patients, it's a 1-1 ratio. These patients are very sick. You know, obviously, they're intubated. But they walk into our hospital. They walk in, there's no telling when this is going to happen. And how do we know that ambulances aren't going to be coming up and down our street in the middle of the night when things go wrong when there's two staff members watching 32 patients?”

Another neighbor, Sheila Kirst, said her son was addicted to heroin and died of an overdose. She said she’d seen her son come down from heroin and would never send him to detox at a facility that didn’t have a doctor on site.

“So I understand how this works. And my concern is that this is a money-making profit thing,” Kirst said. “Putting that many people in that situation in their life in that small facility where they can catch a bus, they can catch a bus and they can connect with anybody in town to get high. No, it's not acceptable.”

Many neighbors questioned the lack of parking, what would happen to trash and the effect the facility would have on local traffic. Many also pointed to a nearby bus stop that local children often use and asked if the children would interact with program participants.

Most everyone said 32 patients was too much, including Carrie Thompson, a longtime resident.

“Back in 2010, when the BeeHive Home went into this space, the community fought really hard to move the number from 20 beds down to 16. I can't even wrap my head around the fact that we're doubling what we had there,” Thompson said. “16 was a lot to have in a residential neighborhood and now we're talking about 32 in a space that does not have, really, any outdoor grounds to speak of.”

Thompson also questioned what would happen if a person decided they didn’t want to participate in the program anymore, and walked off the property into the surrounding neighborhood.

Huffman, the Wasatch Crest CEO, responded briefly to the neighbors’ concerns, saying he would do so in more detail after reviewing the comments in depth.

“I hear those concerns, and I want to do — I don't want to just speak to it, I want to have a specific plan of things that we can do,” Huffman said. “Like if they want the fence a little higher, we'll make things higher. I really want to be responsive to the concerns that have been expressed.”

To Thompson’s last question, which was about discharges “against medical advice,” Huffman responded that one of the staff members would drive the person where they wanted to go.

Planning commissioners thanked Huffman for his willingness to work with the community. Commissioner Chris Conabee shared statistics about the severity of the substance use epidemic and the deaths it causes, suggesting the need for facilities like Wasatch Crest. He said the commission was constrained by state law but would endeavor to make a project that works for the neighborhood.