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Debate Continues Over Proposed Detox Facility

The White Plains Common Council is considering a proposal that would grant Sunrise Detox a permit to open a short-term detox facility on Dekalb Ave. in White Plains.

Sunrise Detox's proposal to open a drug treatment facility at 37 Dekalb Ave. was again met with resistance from concerned neighbors at Monday night's White Plains Common Council meeting.

The proposal, which is for a 31 to 33-bed short-term treatment facility to house patients suffering from alcohol or drug dependency, has become a hot-button issue for residents in the surrounding Carhart Neighborhood. About 15 speakers urged the Common Council to vote down the proposal during the second public hearing on the issue.

Representatives from Sunrise Detox have described the facility as a needed resource for people suffering from a chemical dependency. But neighbors said they view the proposal as a dangerous intrusion into their neighborhood.

"What they are asking the Carhart Neighborhood to do is to fall on the sword for a strict business that doesn't belong in our densely populated neighborhood," said Ira Wunder while addressing the Council. "If you vote yes for this it will be a betrayal for the people of the Carhart Neighborhood."

Neighbors said they are concerned about the potential crime patients at the facility could bring to the area. With the average patient stay estimated to be about 5.7 days, many said they are worried that up to 1,900 people could stay at in the building during a given year.

"Unstable transients is what it would be, passing through the Carhart Neighborhood every year," said Claudia Murphy, who lives nearby. "What will it take, what type of policing, to keep our children safe in this environment?"

William Null, an attorney representing Sunrise Detox, said many of the neighbors' concerns will be mitigated by the way the facility is run. Patients at Sunrise Detox would be there voluntarily, have no contact with the surrounding community and are not allowed visitors. They would stay in the White Plains facility only during the initial phase of their treatment.

"This is not a facility where people come to and walk outside, they live here for a number of days," Null said. "It's a facility that looks to stabilize individuals on a short-term basis."

Linda Burns, CEO of Sunrise Detox, also addressed a pair of arrests tied to other facilities that were discussed during the first public hearing. While Burns said no patient at a Sunrise facility has been arrested for committing a crime against a member of the community, she did acknowledge that a former patient was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia near one of the centers. A Sunrise Detox employee in New Jersey was also accused of sexually assaulting a patient. Burns said that employee was later fired.

"This is an unfortunate circumstance," said Null, who said a background check was performed on the employee and that there was no reason to believe he was unfit to work at the facility when he was hired. 

Null added that 9-1-1 calls at other Sunrise locations—there are currently two open in Florida and one in New Jersey—have been relatively uncommon.

Proposed renovations to the building would actually decrease its size and occupancy. The building had been home to the Nathan Miller Nursing Center for Nursing Care, which contained about 65 living units.

Sunrise Detox must receive a special permit from the Common Council to open the facility. The Council took no action on the issue Monday and will vote at a later date.

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