Middletown may convert fire station into halfway house

Proposal part of city’s action plan to combat heroin problem

The city’s former fire station on Tytus Avenue may be repurposed as a halfway house in Middletown’s battle against heroin addiction.

City Manager Doug Adkins on Saturday told City Council that architects are evaluating the fire station to see how easily it could be converted into a halfway house for people recovering from addiction after they leave drug rehabilitation programs.

Preliminary plans would have the city lease the fire station, which was deactivated last year, to Community Behavioral Health, which would operate the halfway house.

“Community Behavioral Health has some grant money that would be used for the conversion” for residential use, Adkins said.

“That is going on slowly,” he said, noting Law Director Les Landen is drafting a potential lease for the building.

The heroin scourge is a big problem in Middletown and across the region — crossing socioeconomic and geographic barriers and hitting urban, rural and suburban areas alike.

In 2014 alone, Adkins said, the city spent $1.5 million in tax money directly responding to heroin addiction. Police spent $1.2 million investigating nearly 1,500 heroin complaints that resulted in 66 search warrants. Heroin was involved in two murders, 86 deaths and more than 700 arrests for drug-related crime, according to a city report issued last month.

Meanwhile, the Middletown Division of Fire spent more than $175,000 responding to 702 reported overdoses within city limits, and emergency medical personnel used Narcan, which revives people from overdoses, 333 times, the report states. The Middletown Health Department spent more than $18,000 on indigent burials for people who died of overdoses.

The problem was so severe that the city during 2015 partnered with Premier Health and Atrium Medical Center to host several Heroin Summits, out of which officials developed a $250,000 action plan to combat the problem.

Adkins told the council he has met with large companies, hospitals, Butler County government and charitable organizations seeking money to finance the action plan.

“We are going to distribute the plan to all of the churches next week and ask them to take a look at it, and if the church believes it’s something that it would be appropriate to get involved in…. We’re not asking for a particular dollar amount, if they want to give us $50, if they want to give us $5,000, we’ll take whatever you want to give.”

Many foundations and large charitable organizations have specific dates when they make decisions on such funding, and for some, those annual consideration periods have not yet arrived, Adkins said.

“At some point during this I will probably come to you asking for some money to do part of the plan,” he told the council. “I will fund-raise everything I can and see if we have an interest in picking up some of the remainder (of the costs).”

“We’ve got to try something to knock this down and get this back under control,” Adkins said. “I don’t have any idea how soon, or how much, or anything, other than we will continue to work on getting it through grants and other sources.”

The next Heroin Summit will be held Feb. 29, with progress reports offered on efforts to implement the action plan.

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