Thursday, September 20, 2018

Monument rehab project stirs debate

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:09 PM

click to enlarge The Ramada Inn just outside Monument could be converted into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. - EL PASO COUNTY ASSESSOR'S OFFICE
  • El Paso County Assessor's Office
  • The Ramada Inn just outside Monument could be converted into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
Residents in the Town of Monument area are revving their engines to oppose a plan to convert the Ramada Inn, 1865 Woodmoor Drive just east of Interstate 25, into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

But the land is already zoned to accommodate such a facility, county spokesman Dave Rose says. "A residential rehab facility would be an allowed use in that existing zone," he says. That means El Paso County's only authority over the project is to review the site plan, which is an administrative function, although a ruling could be appealed to the Board of County Commissioners.

A site plan includes placement of a driveway, fencing, lighting and traffic patterns.

Meantime, residents note the company proposing the project, Sunshine Behavioral Health, is one of several caught up in an investigation by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on what's commonly called "body brokering." This is the practice of disguising the financial relationship between a call center and a rehab facility, and then steering prospective patients who contact the call center to that rehab facility that shares ownership.

Here's a letter from the committee to Elite Rehab Placement, which is affiliated with Sunshine Behavioral Health.
click to enlarge This map, produced by N.E.S., Inc., which has filed the application on behalf of the rehab clinic, shows the location of the Ramada Inn. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • This map, produced by N.E.S., Inc., which has filed the application on behalf of the rehab clinic, shows the location of the Ramada Inn.
The Elite website can be found here.

Chad Daugherty, CEO of Elite Rehab, tells the Indy via email:
Elite Rehab was contacted by a Congressional committee and has responded to the request for information. The committee later held a hearing on the topic of marketing for treatment centers on July 24, 2018. Elite Rehab was not asked to be a part of the hearing. We are confident our business practices satisfy all legal and ethical requirements. We always act in the best interests of our clients and their families.
There might not be much county commissioners can do to stop the project, however, regardless of a congressional investigation, because the county must follow its own development rules.

Here's the development review link with all of the documents filed so far regarding the project.

If the county rejected the project based on a reason outside the scope of the site plan, it could find itself in court over alleged violations of federal fair housing laws. "There are federal fair housing laws that make it clear you can't discriminate against that use," Rose says.

That said, Rose says commissioners are apt to conduct a hearing to allow residents to vent their concerns.

No date has been set for such a hearing.

The property at issue is owned by a limited liability company, which gives an address in San Juan Capistrano, California, which purchased the property on Aug. 9 for $4 million, assessor records show.

In April 2016, the town of Monument agreed to a settlement with Colonial Management Group that paid the company $900,000 if it agreed not to try to open a facility in Monument, the Gazette reported at the time. Residents, who contended the clinic would draw drug traffic, pressured town officials to bar the clinic, and in 2015, the town revoked its business license. Most of the payment came from Monument's insurance agency, and the town paid $350,000.

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