Paterson NJ residents oppose drug treatment center

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PATERSON – In a town plagued by zombie-like drug addicts roaming the streets, neighborhood residents and town activists oppose plans by a Bridgewater-based company to open a drug treatment center 38 bed addiction.

Opponents claimed Paterson already had too many treatment centers. They also said these programs have exacerbated the city’s drug problem, saying clients who drop out stay in Paterson to get drugs instead of returning to their hometown.

During an adjustment council meeting that lasted 3.5 hours on Monday night, opponents and zoning council members toast Henry Odunlami, the doctor representing the treatment program, GenPsych PC.

Odunlami, a director of the company, said the facility she proposed at 22 Mill St. in historic Paterson’s Great Falls would be different from other processing centers. He said the program will focus on clients’ mental health issues and the facility will provide them with transportation to and from the site.

“We’re not going to have people roaming the streets,” Odunlami said. “We bring them in and we take them out. “

The doctor said his company operates other facilities in New Jersey, including Wayne, Livingston, Jersey City and The Brick.

“We never take anyone out on the streets,” he said.

But activist Jamie Bland has argued that clients could opt out of treatment whenever they want.

“If they don’t want to stay, they can go,” Bland said.

Zoning board member Myra Torres Arenas noted that School 2 is about two blocks from where GenPsych wants to open its treatment center.

“When you have a school this close, you have to think about our children,” Arenas said.

“The misconception is that people with mental illnesses are dangerous,” Odunlami replied.

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The doctor said the second floor of the building would contain nine rooms shared by two women each. The third floor would have 10 bedrooms with two beds each for men. Customers would stay an average of seven days, he said.

The delay cited by the doctor prompted a skeptical question from the city’s town planner, Gary Paparozzi.

“How do you cure mental illness in seven days? Paparozzi asked.

Odunlami acknowledged that clients would not be cured while in the program, but would simply go through detox for the illegal drugs they use. The doctor said most of his business locations are in middle-class suburbs and he chose Paterson to provide assistance to people in all parts of the state.

“I doubt anyone can deny the need,” he said.

But zoning board representatives stressed that GenPsych’s clients would come not only from Paterson, but also from all over New Jersey and parts of New York.

Council adjourned the hearing and will continue it at a later date.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.

E-mail: [email protected]


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