Is Rochester on the verge of a new detox center?

Patti Singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 12:44 p.m. ET Aug. 21, 2018 | Updated 5:04 p.m. ET Aug. 21, 2018

A phone call led Gates officials to tour a building that used to be a detox center, with the hope it can once again help people recover from drugs. Patti Singer, @PattiSingerRoc

(Photo: Patti Singer Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

On a day that started at the scene of another fatal overdose in his town, Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode spent some of his Monday afternoon looking for a way to help other families.

VanBrederode, Gates Supervisor Mark Assini and representatives of Gates to Recovery toured a city building that formerly housed a drug rehabilitation center to see whether it could serve that purpose once more.

“We’re trying to be part of the solution,” VanBrederode said in the front living room of 81 Barberry Terrace in north Rochester. “I don’t know if this is a viable option or not.” 

The brick building is owned by Pentecostal Miracle Deliverance Center Church on Portland Avenue and is part of its campus. According to a spokesman, the church contacted Gates to Recovery to offer the structure to an as-yet-undetermined treatment provider.

“We have some people who are dying from overdoses and they need some help,” said church member Ronald Wright. “They need a place to get that help. That’s all the church wants to do.”

Families and their advocates have been saying that in the midst of the opioid crisis, the Rochester area lacks inpatient beds for medically supervised drug withdrawal and stabilization — commonly called detox. 

In New York, detox services have to be certified by the Office for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Even if an existing provider wants to take on a site that can quickly be made ready, the process still can take a few months, according to a statement from OASAS.

The Finger Lakes region has five medical supervised withdrawal and stabilization programs with a total capacity to treat 56 people, according to the state. Through July, 103 people have died from suspected overdoses, according to data compiled by law enforcement. Police agencies reported 675 overdoses.

Why Gates officials came to city

Assini and VanBrederode looked like prospective homebuyers as they poked their heads around doors, walked into rooms and checked closet space.

Gates had 25 overdoses through July, according to law enforcement data. Only two were fatal, according to a map from the Monroe County Heroin Task Force. Assini and VanBrederode have been outspoken about the need for more services, and they support the nonprofit Recovery Now NY’s Gates to Recovery support services.

“I either sit and keep writing police reports for the dead bodies or I somehow use my influence as police chief to get the ball rolling,” VanBrederode said. “I guess I’m just a frustrated police chief who went to another death scene for another overdose.”

Asked whether it was in his job description to come to the city to find a detox center, Assini said, “Part of the job description of supervisor includes a lot of things, but saving lives is part of it. When it comes to saving lives, I think it’s everybody’s business.”

Assini said he has been told people providing detox services are at full capacity and there are no local beds available.

“We don’t take that at people’s words,” he said. “We found that there is available space, a former facility that did just what we’re looking for.”

What it takes to get a detox site

The church building is one of two that Gates to Recovery has been offered in the past few weeks. It received an email from a person saying he had a vacant adult-care facility in Shortsville, Ontario County.

David Attridge, executive director of Gates to Recovery, said his organization does not do medically supervised detox but it can help those providers find suitable locations.

“Not that we’re experts in any way, but this is something we can take back and say, ‘This is available right now,’” he said. “We need these beds. Why not?”

County and city records have the building address as 77 Barberry Terrace. According to county records, the nearly 10,000-square-foot structure is categorized for commercial use as a health facility. City records show the address has 11 code violations and is in tax foreclosure. Records do not list any tax exemptions.

Attridge said that the building had been used for many years as a detox center.

Wright, a member of the church, said it’s now used by the ministry to help people who are homeless. Most of the building is vacant, and it appeared on the walk-through that some repairs were being made. Wright said no details about the building have been discussed with any potential providers. “Right now, we’re just looking at collaborating. The building is available.”

VanBrederode and Assini said they planned to share information about the building with local treatment providers and with OASAS. According to a statement from OASAS, the organization is working on “setting up a meeting in the near future to work with the community, but no meeting has been confirmed at this time.”

The OASAS standards for medically supervised detox are laid out in a 40-page document. The process for approving new beds includes a review of the provider seeking a license and an assessment of the need in the community where a facility is proposed.

PSINGER@Gannett.com