Proposed substance use treatment facility raises concerns in Whitefield

Cooper's Mills' Country Manor has announced it will close on Wednesday, September 1 (Photo by Paula Roberts)

Cooper’s Mills’ Country Manor announced it will be closing Wednesday, Sept. 1 (Photo by Paula Roberts)

Potential neighbors have expressed caution, but the future executive director of the Residential Substance Use Disorders Treatment Facility in Whitefield said there was nothing to worry about.

Sumner’s Christina Simpson has confirmed plans to open a Holistic Sober Center in the former Country Manor nursing home in Cooper’s Mills later this year. Country Manor Nursing Home closed in September 2021. At the time, representatives of the home’s owners cited years of declining occupancy and staff shortages as the main reasons for the closure.

Rumors of the development infuriated residents, and Simpson was inundated with calls and emails, some of them extremely hostile. Simpson said he believes some members of the public may be acting with limited knowledge of the facility’s plans.

The facility will open in June and house up to 97 “convicted male felons with addiction problems, ages 18-64,” a post on the Whitefield Community Facebook page said. Simpson said the post claiming it was not accurate.

“We’re not going to take in pedophiles. We’re not going to catch violent criminals,” Simpson said. “We accept people who want to change their lives. No one comes to our facility under drugs.”

Simpson said the facility will open with 54 beds. He acknowledged that all those in the residential program were actively engaged in treatment for substance abuse, and that all received detoxification treatment, many after incarceration. All residents are pre-screened and inspected and all stay there voluntarily.

Simpson said the facility will offer treatment through a comprehensive combination of counseling, education and activities.

“We do not treat with Subxone,” she said. “We are holistic. We are looking at the big picture. It helps me learn.”

The center will also offer exit plans for each resident, as well as counseling and classes on topics such as financial planning and co-parenting, Simpson said. Our goal is to give people who need and want to change their lives the skills, strategies and tools to do so.

Simpson is currently preparing a license application for a Holistic Sober Center to be submitted to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Simpson hopes to complete the application soon, but said a recent family medical emergency and circumstances surrounding the birth of a new grandchild have slowed progress.

Holistic Sober Center LLC currently has a DHHS caseworker assigned to the company to help with the license application. Simpson said once the application is submitted, he has 10 days to make corrections or provide additional information if necessary. Simpson said he was unaware of the timeline for a ruling on the DHHS application.

“Now we’re cleaning and painting and tidying up there,” Simpson said. “There were still people’s glasses on the desks because of the way it was closed.”

Simpson said she and her husband will live on site as residential managers once the center is up and running and will welcome grandchildren to visit the facility. She has sold her home in Sumner and plans to move to Whitefield after the sale is completed later this month.

“The number of residents in the facility doesn’t affect the neighborhood,” Simpson said. “It’s meant to help people structure and communicate. They also have to do community service. I think that’s going to be beneficial to the community.”

The center won’t be significantly larger than the previous assisted living facility, Simpson said. She expects to employ fewer people than Country Manor.

Mr. Simpson acknowledged that Holistic Sober Center LLC is a for-profit business that, if licensed, seeks reimbursement for services provided by Medicare, Maincare and other private insurance companies. Simpson said she is one of many investors in the business.

Ms. Simpson met with the Whitefield Planning Commission in April to give them an update on the project and said she was open to the idea of ​​holding an open house when the facility neared opening. Since there are no plans to build new buildings or change the use of the facilities, the business operators have not applied to the town.

Whitefield Planning Commission member Jen Grady said the commission is conducting due diligence to ensure the renovated facilities meet local ordinances and state laws, and the town will continue to comply with federal standards such as the Fair Housing Act. I confirmed that

Mr Grady pointed out that the proposed use is legal and the services it provides are much needed.

“These people are going to be overworked,” Grady said. “People who need to work on their GED will work on their GED … This program is all about putting them on the right path to become productive members of society.”

Ms. Simpson said her personal awareness of the toll substance abuse has taken on families in Maine motivated her to open the facility.

“From my point of view, I think this represents a solution to the problem,” Simpson said. “We encourage each one of these people and teach them how to live a normal life and break the cycle of addiction.”

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