Two large sober living facilities planned for Dayton’s Carillon neighborhood have been billed as part of an innovative effort to combat addiction, but some neighbors and community members are upset with the location.
A health care start-up with ties to Google is working to open the new opioid rehab campus that officials hope will become a national model for combating the deadly drug overdose and addiction crisis.
The state-of-the-art “recovery campus” will treat about 1,000 people in the first year. Clients can refer themselves or come from referrals made by health care providers, family members or drug courts.
Some residents say they are worried the new outpatient and sober living facilities will lead to more crime in the area and could harm property values in the west side neighborhood.
“The biggest concern is safety and security, and again, how is this going to impact the stabilization of our neighborhood?” said Gwendolyn Buchanan, president of Carillon Civic Council.
OneFifteen — which was formed by Verily, Kettering Health Network and Premier Health — will need a signed “good neighbor agreement” with the neighborhood before an occupancy permit is issued for the two new sober residential buildings.
City officials said those agreements typically lay out steps to ensure a good relationship between the two parties, such as regular communication, timely response to issues, and property upkeep.
“We care deeply about the safety and respect the concerns that have been raised,” said Marti Taylor, president and CEO of OneFifteen. “Our goal is to provide benefit to the community of Carillon in areas of shared interest, and we will continue to partner with them on what this could look like.”
Lisa Tingle, a member of the Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals, said it’s unfair that the west side gets unwanted and undesirable projects that never would be approved in other parts of the city.
“My question was, ‘Why West Dayton?’ ” said Tingle, who voted not to approve variance and other requests by OneFifteen. “Everything that’s considered not positive ends up on the west side.”
This week, the Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals approved a conditional-use application and variances to allow two sober living buildings to be constructed at 257 Hopeland St.
The three-story buildings will have 61,600 square feet of space in total. Combined, they will have up to 130 beds.
Clients will be able to stay at the sober living and recovery housing facilities for around 100 days — maybe longer, said Taylor.
OneFifteen will operate the facilities, in partnership with Samaritan Behavioral Health, which will provide clinical care across the entire campus. Premier Health and Kettering Health are partners on the project and will provide leadership and financial and other support.
OneFifteen was developed in partnership with Verily, which is a sister organization of Google, and under the Alphabet umbrella. Verily says its focus is to use technology to better understand health and prevent and manage disease.
The campus will be part of an “eco-system of care” for people suffering with addiction, which also includes leased space for inpatient and crisis services at Kindred Hospital — Dayton, Taylor said.
Construction already is underway on an outpatient facility at the corner of Hopeland and Concord streets, on the same block as the proposed sober living facilities. A former Thaler Machine Co. facility is being renovated to offer outpatient care like group and individual therapy sessions, Taylor said.
Outpatient services are expected to open in late spring. Recovering housing is expected to open in spring 2020, with the full campus being completed the same year.
The sober living facilities will be dorm-style, with community spaces for cooking, laundry and other uses, Taylor said.
The first floor of one building is expected to have fitness facilities, yoga rooms, community rooms and areas for accessory programs for recovery, said Jason East, principal with Champlin Architecture in Cincinnati, which is designing the project.
The second building will have residential beds but the programming and spaces will be decided later after conversations with the community, East said.
Taylor said OneFifteen is committed to Dayton and wants to work with the city to address blight and vacant properties in the Carillon area.
“We are not any sort of fly-by-night operation — we will be here for the long haul,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us all to learn about addiction and this horrible epidemic that is facing our country today.”
But the neighborhood did not want the project, said Buchanan, with the Carillon Civic Council.
Verily has been in talks with neighborhood leadership for a while, but a non-disclosure agreement prevented community discussions about the project until a few weeks ago, Buchanan said.
After recently hearing details about the project, community members were unhappy about the proposal and raised concerns about safety and security and the potential impact on neighborhood stability, Buchanan said.
She said OneFifteen has been working with neighborhood leadership to build rapport and trust.
She said the project seems innovative and is promising to help people struggling with opioid addiction.
But the neighborhood is almost entirely black and the patients the campus will treat mostly will be non-black, according to an email from Buchanan to city staff.
“We need to be careful that this is a win-win for the people being served and the immediate residents,” Buchanan said.
Nicole Carver, who owns property in the neighborhood, said she feels torn because she believes the services are needed and OneFifteen has a good care plan.
But she said the project has moved very fast and she’s worried about the criteria for acceptance into the facilities. She said she’s more worried clients will have problems beyond addiction.
One of the fiercest critics of the project was 60-year-old Annette Gibson-Strong, who lives on Hopeland Street near the campus site.
Gibson-Strong, who said she was once addicted to drugs 15 years ago, said she fears for her life because “dope fiends” will do anything it takes to get their fix.
“Mark my word, if you allow this to happen, one of us is going to die on that street from one of those junkies that’s allowed to go in and out” of the facilities, she said.
Taylor said OneFifteen is working with local and national experts to figure out the best way to secure the campus.
The campus is not supposed to feel like a fortress, but there will be a comprehensive safety plan, she said.
The Board of Zoning Appeals approved OneFifteen’s variance request and conditional-use application, but with several conditions, including that One Fifteen and the neighborhood execute a good neighbor agreement that addresses security and safety.
The vote was not unanimous. Two board members, Tingle and Jackie Patterson, voted against approval of the requests.
Tingle said the zoning board denied variance requests from other applicants wanting to open group homes and centers for at-risk individuals in other parts of the city when neighbors objected.
“It’s OK when you want to build something to improve the community, but when it looks like something that is going to be detrimental to a community that is already suffering — it’s like a double whammy,” she said.