INDIANAPOLIS — Officials wanting to locate a substance abuse treatment center in Anderson believe they have adequately addressed concerns of local residents.

Aspire of Indiana and Progress House are seeking approval by the Anderson City Council to rezone the former Sonrise Retreat Center for use as a residential care center for men suffering from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After several requested continuances, the City Council is expected to vote on the rezoning request Thursday at 7 p.m.

If approved, a final decision on the opening of the facility will be determined by the Anderson Board of Zoning Appeals for a special exception.

Residents have expressed several concerns including who would be allowed in the program, increased pedestrian traffic in a rural setting without street lights or sidewalks, and a lowering of property values.

The site sits on a dead-end street that leads back to the facility with no residential buildings in close proximity, but it can be viewed from the back of several houses.

As proposed, the Anderson facility will have beds for 92 men with 60 in the residential setting and 30 beds for detoxification.

“Most of the men will be from Madison County,” Barbara Scott, CEO of Aspire of Indiana, said. “Aspire will be able to refer people immediately into the program.”

Men currently using drugs or alcohol will not be admitted into the residential program.

“The safety of the community and the staff is a priority,” Scott said. “They’re not really criminals. They’re substance abusers that have gotten involved in a criminal activity in some way.”

Josh Carter, a client at Progress House dealing with alcohol addiction, said the program has changed his life.

“I’ve found a way to deal with problems without using alcohol,” he said. “I have a job and looking to return to my family.”

Other men in Progress House noted that the clients support each other through the treatment process and they have no desire to return to their former lifestyle.

Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said at a meeting with residents last week that he was convinced the people who would be living at the facility would be no more likely to hurt them than anyone else in Madison County.

“These people that are here want to be here. They are working hard not to get in trouble,” Mellinger said.

Progress House has been located in downtown Indianapolis for approximately 20 years and CEO Darrell Mitchell said there has never been a police call, complaints of vandalism, crime or noise at the site.

He said that within a half-mile there are 500 residential units.

Scott and Mitchell said no one will be admitted to the program in Anderson that has been convicted of a sex crime or violent offense.

The residents will be confined to the property and walking or driving in the neighborhood would be prohibited, they said.

Scott said there will be 50 cameras installed and a property line fence will be considered.

She said a 2014 study that contended property values would decrease by 8% to 14% has been criticized based on the methodology used and that there is no conclusive evidence that property values will decrease.

Mitchell said Progress House has 92 men as residents in a four- to six-month program that includes counseling and life skills classes.

Once that program ends, he said, the men can apply to live in a residential unit for up to two years.

Mitchell said the success rate is 50% and that 60% of the men in the program are dealing with abuse of alcohol.

“An alcoholic can still function for a period of time and maintain a job,” he said. “A drug addict hits the bottom quicker. We equip people with life skills so they don’t have to resort to returning to use the drug.

“We give the men the skills and experience to respond differently to challenges and apply the principles of the program,” Mitchell said. “It’s the greatest opportunity for success in being clean and sober in a highly structured environment.”

Aspire will provide access to health care and mental health needs.

“It will be the first of its kind in Madison County where a Medicaid client can get the services they need,” Mitchell said.

Clients at Progress House can walk in and request treatment, are referred by other substance abuse facilities or can call if they’re interested in a treatment program,” he said.

This is different than a five- to seven-day program, Mitchell said, adding that this is a long-term residential treatment not found anywhere else.

Follow Ken de la Bastide

on Twitter @KendelaBastide,

or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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