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Middlebury to review plan for recovery center

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board on May 8 will take its first official look at the Turning Point Center (TPC) of Addison County’s proposal to transform the Greystone Motel at 1395 Route 7 south into a recovery center for men struggling with drug addiction.
Bill Brim, executive director of TPC, has made some tweaks to the organization’s plans since first disclosing them to the Addison Independent in March. The biggest change is that the proposed center wouldn’t, at this point, include a detox facility. Such an offering would have served people requiring monitored, short-term stays while ridding their systems of alcohol and/or medication overdoses. Brim explained the detox component of the project would have been too difficult to permit under Middlebury’s zoning rules.
So at this point, TPC is forging ahead with a recovery center plan. The eight-room center would provide stays of up to six months, and a variety of support services for people trying to rebuild their lives as they recover from addiction.
Clients would be intensely vetted and have to be referred to the new center from the court system, Department of Corrections and other agencies that serve people with substance abuse issues, according to Brim. The facility would have a security system and would be staffed by a recovery coach and a peer support professional.
“It will a safe place for people who really want it,” Brim said.
If it becomes a reality, Brim said the center would be run according to National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) standards.
The NARR is a nonprofit organization that serves and represents 25 regional, affiliated organizations providing addiction recovery services at 2,500 facilities throughout the country. In 2011, NARR established national standards for recovery residences. It provides certification to centers that are able to meet program standards based on quality, ethics, access and choice.
Brim has also reached out to Addison County-based human service agencies for their input and potential collaboration in the proposed recovery center. He is hoping to partner with the Counseling Service of Addison County, Porter Medical Center, law enforcement, the court system and area physicians whose patients could benefit from the recovery center.
Raising funds for the new facility will be a challenge, Brim acknowledged. But he said there are state and federal grant opportunities for recovery centers, which are in short supply. Meanwhile, the number of Vermonters addicted to opioids continues to climb at a dramatic rate. According to Vermont Department of Health statistics, 3,488 people received treatment for heroin addiction last year, up from 2,477 in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of people receiving treatment for addiction to prescription drugs has risen from 913 in 2012 to 2,638 last year.
The department found more than 150 Addison County residents being treated for opioid addiction during fiscal year 2015, up from 50 during fiscal year 2006. There are only a few physicians in the county who prescribe medications like Suboxone for patients seeking recovery from addiction.
Brim said he been encouraged by Department of Corrections officials to pursue a Middlebury-based recovery center to help boost addiction recovery amenities in Vermont.
“There are a lot of irons in the fire right now for funding,” Brim said.
Owned by Leela Inc., the Greystone Motel sits on a 3-acre lot, has 10 guest rooms, and is currently assessed by the town of Middlebury at $393,600. It has been on the market for several months and the owners have already held some informal talks with Brim, who said he would likely pursue tax-exempt status for the property.
Turning Point officials have toured the motel and believe that aside from a sprinkler system, no major renovations would be needed to convert it into a recovery center.
“The property remains available,” Brim said. “It is almost turnkey-ready.”
Keith Tallon, district manager of the Vermont Department of Probation & Parole’s Middlebury and Rutland offices, said the department issued a request for proposals five months ago from vendors interested in establishing transition housing in Addison County for prisoners (with local roots). He said the Turning Point Center’s plans for the Greystone Motel would fill a significant void in Addison County, in terms of providing temporary, supervised quarters and services for former prisoners trying to recover from drug addiction.
“Bill’s vision is wonderful,” Tallon said. “I think it’s a much-needed resource, and I hope (the plan) will be successful.”
Tallon noted there are currently two successful transitional housing locations in Rutland that provide 24/7 supervision of recently discharged inmates. He said there are typically 35-38 Addison County offenders on furlough who are under state supervision at any one time. Those offenders are having a hard time finding affordable housing, he said. Some of them are able to find housing through family members, he said, but others must temporarily settle in other parts of the state due to a lack of affordable housing in Addison County.
Probation & Parole provides subsidies for programs serving its clients, though it does not typically contribute to acquisition and/or renovations for facilities aimed at providing such programming, Tallon noted.
Turning Point will need a conditional use permit to make a recovery center out of the Greystone Motel because it is located in the town’s Protected Highway District, said Jennifer Murray, Middlebury’s director of planning and zoning. Social service facilities are currently not allowed in the protected highway district, but Turning Point officials could attempt to argue their proposed use fits the definition of a “group home,” which could entitle it to an exemption, according to Murray.
The local ordinance defines a group home as a facility operating under state licensing or registration serving up to eight people who “have a handicap or disability.”
The May 8 DRB meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the large conference room of the municipal building at 77 Main St. in downtown Middlebury.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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