From November, 2018 print issue of The Bradford
There has been significant controversy in the town surrounding the potential opening of a new substance detox facility on 30 Washington Street in Lower Falls. Since news brokeof the upcoming opening, there has been major concern among some residents that the location is dangerously close to elementary schools, preschools, and other child-related centers.
The potential location on 30 Washington Street would be a quarter of a mile from St. John’s School, Artisan Childcare Center, and Hills & Falls Nursery School, and roughly a half mile from Schofield Elementary and Warren Park and Recreation Center.
The Coleman Institute (TCI), which is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, contains several locations in major cities and would operate the new detox facility. Its detox centers are “dedicated to developing treatments that are safe, comfortable and affordable for patients, enabling them to take that first step towards recovery and a drug-free life,” according to Dr. Peter Coleman on TCI’s website.
Coleman Institute centers offer treatment options for addictions to opiates, heroin, prescription drugs, alcohol, and chronic pain medications, and other substances. The center will be an outpatient center, meaning patients will not reside in the center. Also, the center will not provide walk-in services, as TCI requires screening patients at length before they can even enter the facility, Coleman said at a town meeting in late October dedicated to debating the facility’s anticipated opening.
Many parents and residents concerned with potential safety risks near child centers participated in the heated debate.
In a change.org petition to the Board of Selectmen, the Wellesley Concerned Parents group and its signees have advocated for stopping TCI from operating at 30 Washington Street, or “in any other location within proximity to our schools and parks”, and for the town’s elected officials to amend zoning bylaws to prevent detox and treatment facilities from operating within proximity to town schools and parks. It has received over 2,000 signatures.
In terms of questions over the safety practices of TCI locations, they require that patients must be accompanied by a “responsible support person” 24 hours a day as they receive treatment, among other safety measures.
Wellesley Police Chief Jack Pilecki contacted ten of the police departments with Coleman facilities in town.
“Of all ten departments I called… most of the departments didn’t even know [the facilities] were there,” Pilecki said at the meeting.
Superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools Dr. David Lussier said that the school department has no official position on the issue, but the department has been “monitoring the development very closely,” according to Lussier.
“I understand the concern of residents, particularly those who live close by, with the idea of this treatment center opening,” said Lussier. “At the same time, I think many of the concerns I have heard are based on misperceptions of who needs treatment and what the operation of such a facility will look like.”
From 2013 to 2017, the Boston Globe reported four deaths in Wellesley from opioid overdoses. According to the town police log, there were also two instances this year in Wellesley where town police officers adminsitered narcan to an overdosed person, and another where narcan was administered to an unconscious driver pulled over on the road.
TCI notes on their website that 98 percent of their patients successfully complete their detox through “unique, customized programs that help people detoxify and stabilize from the effects of opiates and alcohol in as few as three days”.
As of now, the center plans to start treating patients by the end of the year.
“The Coleman Institute has complied with all by-right zoning regulations for the area and the medical office requires no further permitting from the town,” said the Board of Selectmen in an initial statement announcing the plan for opening the center.