Hancock County Commissioners Delay Payment To Play Political Game On Recovery House Plan

Hancock County Commissioner Mark D Gazarek

Somethings never seem to change in my hometown of Findlay, Ohio. The city and county is red-red Republican and irrational politics even seep into addiction recovery services. It caused the county commissioners to delay paying a contract so they could interfere in a local dust up over a recovery house location. They claimed the delay was not political but then explained why it was. Meanwhile people in real need of help get ignored.

Back in early January, there was an “uproar” when some Findlay citizens found out that the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) bought a house in a “affluent” section of Findlay near an elementary school, a parochial school, and the Findlay Country Club.

Google map cap showing Picture showing relative locations of schools and the recovery house
Picture showing relative locations of the recovery house to the schools. The country club is just beyond the image boundary to the lower left of the grade school.

Here was the initial reporting in the Findlay Courier:

State Rep. Robert C. Sprague said Monday he was “astounded” when he found out a planned addiction recovery house for women would be located at 1900 Greendale Ave. in Findlay, near Wilson Vance Intermediate School, St. Michael School and the Findlay Country Club.

Sprague and Mayor Lydia Mihalik both voiced opposition to the house’s location, less than one-tenth of a mile from Wilson Vance, during a public forum Monday night at the intermediate school.

During his time in the Ohio House, Sprague has supported legislation to fight opiate addiction and has promoted programs such as recovery houses to help people overcome addiction.

But area residents and parents of students at Wilson Vance School gave multiple reasons why they don’t want a recovery house in their neighborhood.

Some crowd members claimed that former addicts are heavy smokers and would smoke so much outside that it would disturb neighbors. One person shouted that the house would become Wilson Vance’s “smoker’s corner,” in reference to an intersection near Findlay High School where students smoke.

Another person said the recovering addicts would likely try to steal things from neighbors so they could sell the items for drug money. Some attendees said their house values would go down because of the recovery house, but Stuby said research indicated otherwise.

Plans for addiction recovery house cause uproar

So you can imagine the back and forth in the letters to the editor and every meeting the ADAMHS board has had since January 5th. You put a recovery house in a “well-to-do” neighborhood and you can count on the NIMBY flames to erupt fanned by the political leaders who depend on the votes and campaign contributions of this particular neighborhood. There was also some nasty racial overtones as if addicts could never be white.

Despite the actual science behind a recovery house and ignoring the strict screening process planned for the FOUR inmates… er… residents, the politicians keep trying to interfere in the process.

Fast forward to this week and the Hancock County Commissioners delayed disbursing $60,000 for the county ADAMHS’ share of the staffing cost of the house.

Hancock County Commissioner Mark Gazarek said Thursday an “amicable agreement” is in sight about the location of a controversial addiction recovery house in Findlay.

“It’s something that both sides can be happy with,” Gazarek said during the commissioners’ regular meeting.

Gazarek’s comments came Thursday as the county commissioners again delayed payment of a $60,000 bill for staffing the recovery house.

Gazarek and Commissioner Phillip Riegle said that’s a bookkeeping issue, not a political statement.

Commissioner: Recovery house agreement near

Not a political statement? Total BS. Because of a “technicality” the county commissioners had to vote to disburse the contracted money for the staffing and decided to delay it. They couldn’t vote against it since it isn’t county money. ADAMHS funding is through a tax levy and the county is only a fiscal agent – someone who holds the checkbook as it were.

And what about this “agreement” Commissioner Mark Gazarek was so pleased with?

Well look here – there was an unannounced meeting between ADAMHS and the opposition group euphemistically named “Save Our Neighborhoods” where ADAMHS was asked to sell the house to someone in the neighborhood group and agree to strict requirements:

He offered to close the deal on April 15, but only if the deal was accepted by midnight next Tuesday, according to the “Offer to Purchase” signed by Weasel.

“As a firm condition of this sale,” the document said, “ADAMHSS agrees that it will not locate, cause to be located or assist in the location of any recovery houses in R-1 residential neighborhoods in Findlay, Ohio, without the express written consent of all the owners of homes located within 200 feet of the proposed recovery house.”

Drug recovery house foes make offer

Even if the board accepts the deal the strings attached can’t be enforceble once the sale goes through. What will they do, give the house back?

How people recover from addiction should be left to the qualified experts and it shouldn’t be criminalized as all these “helpful” neighbors keep trying to do.

As ADAMHS executive director, Precia Stuby, put it:

Stuby said the relapse rate for addiction varies, and no one can predict who will relapse. She said people who have mental illnesses or substance abuse problems have the right to live anywhere anyone else does.

They’re humans like you and I are humans,” she said.

I agree and the politicians should stop butting in and using cheap games to interfere especially when they don’t use that energy to actually help people who need it.

**Update 02/25/15**

The ADAMHS Board caved to the opposition group and voted to sell the house:

The Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services voted 11-2 on Tuesday, with two abstentions, to sell the house located near Wilson Vance Intermediate School to the “Save Our Neighborhoods” group, which made an updated offer to purchase Tuesday.

The board said it wanted to recover the $195,000 it paid for the house in November, plus some expenses. The opposition group’s updated offer was $198,767, which was accepted by the board.

The opposition’s latest purchase offer removed restrictions included in an offer last week that would have prevented the board from buying a house in another single-family neighborhood.

The new offer also promised support from the opposition group when the mental health board asks voters to renew its levy. The five-year, 1.3-mill levy expires at the end of 2017.

Board votes to sell ‘recovery home’

It still stinks that the Board gave up but at least the crazy restrictions I noted in my original post were removed from the purchase offer.

As also noted in the follow up:

[Executive Director Precia] Stuby said the board would proceed as it had before, with more community involvement, but she said it could not seek “permission” from a neighborhood for a recovery house, as other residents aren’t required to seek permission before moving into a house.

“Recovery is something to be celebrated and supported, not feared,” she said.