Neighbors furious about planned drug treatment center in Dayton

Ex-cop is opening facility in a former nursing home that sits on a residential street

Some residents of East Dayton’s Burkhardt neighborhood are upset about a drug treatment clinic opening nearby.

The owner of 20 Livingston Ave. plans to convert the former nursing home facility into a clinic and offices offering a variety of services, including the administration of Vivitrol medication, which is used to stop people from relapsing to opioid dependence.

Some neighbors say this facility does not belong in their residential neighborhood along Huffman Avenue, and they fear it will harm public safety, property values and quality of life.

George Parker, who lives across the street at 41 Livingston Ave., said he would have no issue if the clinic only offered counseling, case management and other planned services, but he strongly opposes medication-assisted treatment at that location that serves drug addicts from outside the neighborhood.

“I’m just going to tell you now that I’m going to fight you every step of the way because I don’t have anything else to lose,” he said.

But owner John Pawelski said his program last year graduated 146 people who were completely clean and sober for a minimum of five months, and he followed the proper steps to acquire this facility and amend the underlying zoning to help more people beat drug addiction.

“My passion, my calling, is to help the addicts in Dayton,” said Pawelski, who is a former Dayton police officer. “I had a daughter who was pimped by her boyfriend to the drug dealer for drugs, and I had no place to turn ... there was no good program I could take her, and I vowed that other parents wouldn’t have that same problem.”

An informational community meeting held this week at the Livingston Avenue property became tense and fiery at times as a handful of residents voiced their concerns and objections to the new proposed drug treatment center.

Some neighbors said they were worried the clinic would distribute suboxone, but Pawelski promised it would not hand out “one strip” of suboxone.

However, he said it would provide Vivitrol shots, which are used to treat opioid and alcohol dependence.

Pawelski said Vivitrol shots make people sick and prevent intoxication when they drink alcohol or take opiates.

Suboxone and methadone are used to manage opiate withdrawal and addiction but can be misused and produce a high.

“You could take truckloads of that Vivitrol, leave it sitting on the sidewalk and no one is going to steal it because it’s a blocker to a high,” Pawelski said. “There’s no gain from it ... no one sells it on the street, no one gets high from it.”

Wendy Parker, who lives across the street with her husband, George, said city of Dayton staff gave her an old article that suggests that living next to a drug treatment center is no more dangerous than living next to a liquor store, convenience store or a big box store.

“Guess what — we didn’t move in next door to a liquor store or a Walmart, and we’d feel the same way if you wanted to put a weed facility in here or anything else that brings people into this neighborhood who don’t belong here,” she said. “These facilities belong in commercial areas. They belong in places where there aren’t houses 24 feet from the door.”

Parker said her 21-year-old son was shot dead in a drug-related incident a couple of years ago, and she strongly supports treatment centers that help people with drug addiction.

But, she said, this is not the right location for this kind of facility.

Pawelski said the vacant property was an eyesore that had drug addicts living inside, and it was a magnet for criminal and nuisance activities.

Pawelski said the neighborhood already has addicts who need help and treatment, and his program helps people obtain a productive and thriving sober life, and clients benefit from a variety of wrap-around services, like job training and counseling.

Pawelski said he is willing to meet with neighbors to hear and consider their concerns, but he said some of their requests, like canceling the project or putting up a privacy fence, are out of the question.

“If we need to change some things to adjust to the community, I’m not opposed to that as long as at the end of the day my patients’ health and long-term recovery is not put at risk,” he said.

Some neighbors said they were not properly notified about this drug treatment center project when it was proposed and went before the Dayton Plan Board for approval in November.

The plan board approved the proposed use as medical and professional offices, and city staff said they believed the property was no longer viable as a nursing home.

Christy Massey, 34, who also lives across the street on Livingston, said she plans to sell her home before the new treatment center opens.

Massey said she’s very worried about her property value and the safety of her five children and grandchild.

“We already have so much trouble here, and they want to bring more,” said Massey, who said her home recently was hit by gunfire during a drive-by shooting. “I’m calling my Realtor tomorrow — I’ll sell before that opens.”

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