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Westmorland residents air views concerning drug-treatment facility

March 07, 2002|By MARIO RENTERIA

Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — Residents again filled the City Council chambers during a council meeting Wednesday night to share their thoughts and concerns in regard to a proposed 50-bed residential drug- and alcohol-treatment facility for non-violent women.

Mike Gaston of The Holt Group in El Centro gave an update on the facility. The Holt Group offers engineering, planning and other services to the city of Westmorland.

Gaston told the council the project is moving forward, although the city still hasn't acquired the land for the facility.

The next step is for the city Redevelopment Agency to grant a conditional-use permit to Alternative Programs Inc., which would build and run the facility.

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He said the proposed site is the southwest corner of Third and H streets, behind Gray's Stage Stop.

The facility would house 50 women who have been either referred from the courts, probation departments, the state Department of Corrections or from private pay or insurance companies.

The proposal was first brought up about a year ago and original plans called for only 25 beds but API President Edwin Durwood Sigrest said the facility wouldn't be cost-effective at that size.

Sigrest reminded the council and others at the meeting that the facility would only house non-violent women who want to seek treatment.

Westmorland resident Katie De Luna told Sigrest she is concerned because she knows drug addicts only attend the treatment facilities so they won't have to go to jail and may not really put an effort into rehabilitating.

She said she supports the facility but not the location, which is across the street from her front yard.

Sigrest told the council the patients will be allowed to bring their children over age 6. The facility will be fenced in and patients will be supervised 24 hours a day.

He added the facility will create about 15 jobs and those running it will make an extra effort to hire as many Westmorland residents as possible.

He said if successful the facility will be expanded to 100 beds and create even more jobs.

Another concern of De Luna is how the managers will ensure illegal drugs won't be given to the residents by visitors or others.

Sigrest told her the residents are tested regularly and if they fail a drug test they are sent back to jail. Also, visitors will be heavily screened and patients won't be allowed to have contact with anyone from outside for the first part of their stay at the facility. Most residents will stay in the facility for six months to a year.

Westmorland resident Victor M. Sanchez asked Sigrest about medical personnel. Sigrest said the facility would not have any emergency medical personnel. He said personnel would be certified to administer basic first aid.

Gaston said approval of the conditional-use permit will be discussed at the next RDA meeting scheduled for March 20.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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