BROOKVILLE — William Schwab, Brookville, and Brian Schell, Cincinnati, sought a conditional use approval from the Franklin County Area Plan Commission Oct. 9 to open the Brookville Recovery Center at 273 Main St.

The consensus of most attendees, who numbered over 50, was NIMBY — not in my backyard.

The application said the health facility would treat patients with substance use disorders. The men proposed offering intensive outpatient and residential inpatient treatments. “I’ve never done this before,” Schell admitted.

To address possible safety concerns, he said there would be alarms on doors and security cameras.

In addition to improving patients’ health, they hoped to offer resume building to help them find jobs.

He contended, “Certainly there’s going to be an impact on the community in a positive way.”

President Robert Braun, Batesville, asked, “How far are you away from (St. Michael Catholic) School?” About a block and a half was Schell’s answer.

He explained, “We’d like to just be an intensive outpatient (facility) at the start three days a week” with partial hospitalization offered five days a week with a specific amount of treatment per day. The staff would include counselors, physicians and nurses.

Vice President Ruthie Mannix, Batesville, questioned, “Partial hospitalization, what does that mean?”

Schell said there are a couple different models. Either clients could actually stay in the facility for treatment seven days a week with two recreational days or they could be there five days a week.

Mannix wondered, “Would these people be self-admitted?” Schell responded, “Yes, they would be asking for help.”

According to Schwab, “Brian and I have worked in the field for years ... we’ve seen a lot of people die. It’s devastating. It’s just killing families ... and all the people close to them ... Most people know somebody who has died from this epidemic. There’s a real need for this.”

Schell added, “I’m in the trenches every day,” working at an Ohio facility with over 100 beds. “We’re full. I also get to see people turn their lives around, too, where they can be productive members of society. ... We want to do what we can to have a positive impact on the problem.”

Schell, who has worked in the field for the past three years and years ago, does community outreach. “There are resources sometimes that people don’t know about ... and they fall through the cracks.”

Mannix asked county Building Department and FCAPC executive director Cindy Orschell if the development plan checks all the boxes. Her answer was yes.

Member Mary Rodenhuis, a Franklin County Purdue Extension educator, quizzed, “How many beds would you have in the facility?” It would have a maximum capacity of 24, according to Schell.

Member Chris Ernstes, Brookville, asked about state licensing. Of the former Elsie Dreyer long-term care facility and Works of Mercy site, Schell reported, “We plan on renovating the building externally and internally. The state will come in and send inspectors.” There would also be an inspection by firefighters. The owners will have to decide whether they want to be CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) certified. Their first hurdle was to gain FCAPC approval.

Schwab said it would take six to nine months to complete the licensing process.

Member Dennis Brown, Cedar Grove, asked if the men had feedback from or talked to the Brookville Police Department or Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. “Not yet,” answered Schwab. “We’re going to reach out to them.”

Member Ed Derickson, Blooming Grove Township, pointed out, “If the police department is going to bring someone in, you’re not going to be there 24/7.” Schwab said that was true. “The only time the treatment is going to work is if somebody’s willing. ... I don’t want somebody to be forced into the treatment center.”

Schell noted, “We do have policies and procedures ... We want to be a good neighbor.” Of addicts, he said, “If they can get the help, they can be outstanding citizens.”

Brown asked about a timeline.

Schell wanted to offer intensive outpatient help at three months, partial hospitalization at six to nine months, and residential treatment by the end of the first year. “The state ultimately makes that decision.”

St. Michael Catholic School principal Ashley Meyer said 220 students from ages 3 through eighth-grade attend there. “I’ve measured off today” and the facility’s east side would be 318 feet from the playground.

He asked, “Could somebody from Cincinnati, Louisville or Indianapolis come in” to be treated there? Schell responded, “Maybe from Indianapolis, but that’s a long way.” Not from out of state, he indicated.

Initially, patients would be at the building between 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Meyer was worried they might leave at 1 p.m. while students were outside.

Based on Schell’s responses, Meyer implored FCAPC not to make a decision that night. “There are uncertainties.”

Braun wondered if patients could not be released when students are coming and going. Schell said, “Absolutely, we would be more than happy to accommodate that.”

Matt Linkel, Batesville, said, “You say your main concern is safety. How can you guarantee safety when we don’t know” the processes? “I don’t think that’s the safest place to do it, right by a school.”

The college physical education and health student said he knows sometimes there’s a connection between substance abuse and mental health. He was concerned about possible violence. “Are we willing to have those risk factors that close to a school zone? It takes one” instance for a tragedy. Linkel concluded, “Students and teachers deserve safety,” which was met with applause.

Nancy Pieper, a Margaret Mary Health licensed clinical social worker and counselor and Franklin County resident, asked, “What kinds of models will you be using” to aid patients? A 12-step model was the answer.

“How would persons pay?” continued Pieper. Through private insurance or Medicaid.

Will they be serving persons with mental health issues? “It depends where they are on the spectrum,” he answered.

“Will you be doing any drug testing?” “Absolutely,” Schell said, at least three or four times a week.

Pieper questioned, “Have you worked with CERT (Choices Emergency Response Team that helps those struggling with substance abuse issues) ... that we already have in existence?” He said, “Ultimately we would. We must go one step at a time” with getting the building OK the first step.

She wondered, “Do you consider yourselves to be a faith-based program?” He said, “We consider ourselves to be a spiritual program.” When asked, he was unsure if facility leaders would utilize peer recovery coaching.

Ernstes told Schell frankly, “You seem to have difficulty defining what you want to be ... I really feel that for this type of facility, ... I think I need something more than this to know what I’m approving. I feel I’m approving more of a hope or a dream ... and I’m very concerned about that.” Ernstes wanted a written proposal.

St. Michael parent Rachel Ratz, Brookville, who is a social worker at a Richmond inpatient facility, reported, “If you are from Indiana (and want substance abuse treatment), you could be sent from Fort Wayne to Brookville ... wherever beds are available.” She worried that if persons were discharged from a Brookville center, “where do they go from there?” She said a Connersville drug treatment facility lasted less than a year. “My point: I do this. I refer patients to drug rehab facilities.” She warned, “You’re going to have an influx (of patients) from other areas, other problems.” She insisted most patients would not be local. “I’ve sent patients all over and that’s what I think would happen here.” Persons would arrive in Brookville and “not have a support system.”

A man with 10 years of military and narcotics experience told the applicants, “God bless the work you do. My brother was a heroin addict. He lost his battle with that. These clinics are typically a target for people trying to recruit other people” into crimes ranging from credit card fraud to narcotics because recruiters know addicts are vulnerable. He concluded, “I would like to see a much more detailed risk assessment plan” that has been coordinated with the sheriff’s department before a vote is taken.

Cindy Wurzelbacher, West Harrison,, a St. Michael parent and 19-year registered nurse in Cincinnati, grilled Schell about his background. He said he has a bachelor’s degree and has been sober for nine years.

She observed, “There are a lot of good ... intentions,” but not a concrete plan. “I agree there’s a huge need for substance abuse and mental health” treatment. It’s very unnerving to bring this to this meeting tonight.”

Schell apologized he didn’t bring more detailed plans to the hearing. “My understanding was it was more about the zoning” and not how the center would be operated.

She asked, “What made you select Brookville?” He responded, “Indiana is underserved.”

She pressed, “But why Brookville?” Schell said an online map showed “there’s clearly a need (for a treatment facility) for not only Brookville, but surrounding communities.”

David Amrhein, a St. Michael computer/IT teacher, asked if the center would have a needle exchange program. No.

Jeff Coy, a Margaret Mary Health, Brookville, adult clinical nurse specialist, noted, “The only predictable thing with any of the drug problems is the unpredictability. They can leave whenever they want. But go where? The playground? You don’t know. Out of seven years in the Brookville community, over 60% of my patients have some type of mental health component.” He was skeptical that locating a substance use disorder center in the heart of Brookville was the right place.

Monica Yane owns an East Third Street home where two grandsons, 12 and 10, live, three houses down from the proposed center. “I’m very concerned because my grandsons go home after school. They’re out and about in the neighborhood.” She also worried that the center would depress neighborhood property values. Yane suggested the facility be located in a more isolated spot.

Ernstes pointed out requirements for a conditional use application include site and development plans and a description of proposed activity. He said the first two were minimal and the third requirement was lacking. He made a motion to postpone a decision until the Nov. 13 meeting, when he requested that applicants present an activity description “based on concerns you heard tonight” and other members agreed, voting 6-0 for postponement.

Rodenhuis told attendees who spoke, “I know we have strong feelings,” but at the next meeting she wanted statistics.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-717-3113.