(Image courtesy Set Free Alaska)

(Image courtesy Set Free Alaska)

Addiction treatment center in search of a new location — again

A faith-based organization that’s been trying to set up an inpatient addiction treatment center in the Homer area for months is again searching for a new location after residents in an East End Road neighborhood challenged the latest site.

Set Free Alaska, based in the Mat-Su Valley, had planned to renovate a property that was once a bed and breakfast business off of Portlock Drive about five miles down East End Road, outside of both Homer and Kachemak City limits. The organization was working on closing the sale. The organization had previously sought to renovate a building in downtown Homer, but abandoned that idea after a local resident appealed the Planning Advisory Commission’s decision to allow a conditional use permit for the center.

However, residents who live in the area off of Portlock Drive pushed back against the 16-bed inpatient treatment center for men being in that neighborhood. They hired a local attorney and argued that their neighborhood covenants, or rules governing the use of real property, prohibited the kind of development the treatment center would represent, according to Set Free Alaska Executive Director Phillip Licht.

“Initially, it seemed that this could be a great place for individuals and families to find healing, hope and resilience resulting in lasting change,” Licht wrote in a letter sent to the residents of the neighborhood. “It is clear to us now that this neighborhood is not supportive of us locating here. We have heard and taken into consideration the concerns addressed.”

Licht said in an interview that Set Free Alaska disagrees with the interpretation of the covenants, and that a treatment facility would in fact be allowed there. However, he said the organization decided the better move was to look elsewhere.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to be in the middle of a neighborhood or community that is not going to want us there,” he said.

Set Free Alaska got a $1.5 million grant from the state to help establish the treatment center. Terms of the grant include starting to offer services by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2020. Searching for another new location at this point will set the project back by a few months, Licht said. He’s still confident Set Free Alaska can keep to the timeline stipulated by the state grant, though.

At this point, Licht said it would be ideal to find a location outside of any city limits, and not in the middle of any residential neighborhoods. He’d like the property to have a bit of space, but also needs it to be close enough to town for patients to be able to access services.

The entire process of Set Free Alaska — which runs an inpatient treatment center in the Mat-Su Valley as well as provides outpatient addiction treatment — bringing a treatment center to Homer stemmed from meetings Licht had with the local Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force. Those conversations identified inpatient addiction treatment for men as a main need in Homer right now, Licht has said.

“We do not begrudge you in any way for not wanting this program near you,” Licht wrote in his letter to the East End Road neighborhood. “As we serve Homer and the surrounding area with excellence you will see firsthand the benefits that come from treatment. We will continue to work with the community and the Opioid Task Force to address the stigma associated with addiction and in time this attitude will shift.”

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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