RAVENNA -- The Portage County Sales and Use Tax Advisory Oversight Subcommittee last week heard a proposal for the county's first Detoxification and Residential Treatment Center and Recovery Campus.

Mark Frisone, executive director of Family & Community Services Inc.; Dave Vaughn, director of Neighborhood Development Services; Major Dale Kelly with the Portage County Sheriff's Office; and Judge Becky Doherty outlined the components of the proposal.

In March, commissioners heard nine proposals -- from F&CS recovery housing to a Portage County drug court. With this 10th proposal that came in late, commissioners are tasked with how to spend $5 million of taxpayers money to resolve Portage's heroin epidemic.

Vaughn said NDS purchased the former Altercare facility on New Milford Road, which is appraised at $465,000, for $15,000 about two years ago with a residential treatment facility in mind. Since then, NDS has poured $200,000 into general maintenance and holding costs.

"We are donating the building to the project," Vaughn said.

The facility would include 16 detox beds, 22 long-term residential beds and an area for counseling and physical therapy rooms. The program would start with a five-day detox, then a 60-day residency. An alternate proposal calls for an additional 15 units on the second floor for re-entry from prison and residency after 60 days.

The cost of the first floor is approximately $2.4 million. The second floor would cost another $1.5 million. Vaughn said, with a 60 percent occupancy, the facility will be "self-sufficient" due to reliance on Medicaid-based payment program.

People with low felony charges, such as theft or drug possession, people detoxing in jail and those preparing for re-entry from prison could use the facility.

"The program is a foundation that's not costing anything" Kelly said. "Every time we respond to a heroin death, these people are the same people we had in jail the day before."

People should "never be in a position where they're detoxing" in jail, Doherty said. "I have to take them in to save their lives. I don't have anywhere for them to go. This facility would give them an opportunity."

UH Portage Medical Center's detox centers in Geauga and Portage see on average 80 people a month, but after three days they have nowhere to go, while Root House, a sober living house, is geared for people who have graduated from treatment and acquired jobs.

"We have a $400,000 facility that someones giving this community to make this happen," said Frisone, who has lived in Portage for 30 years. "We know this is a need."

He mentioned Trumbull County has opened four residential treatment facilities in the past six months, and Portage has none.

"I want this place to be a community-based operation that benefits everybody," Frisone said. "We can make this work. I think we can do all the things we want to do as a community, but you have the have the place in which to do it."

Email: kmaile@recordpub.com

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