Tuesday, February 27, 2024

County Commissioner Rob Zapple addresses lawsuit’s concerns regarding Healing Place security

The commissioner hopes to clear up some issues associated with the planned treatment facility

Rob Zapple won re-election to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. (Port City Daily photo / File)
Rob Zapple offered some clarification on the concerns outlined in a lawsuit against the city and county (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — The planned drug treatment center known as The Healing Place has caused plenty of debate among residents, property owners, elected officials, and proprietors of neighboring businesses — even sparking a lawsuit against the county, the city, and more.

Related: Healing Place treatment center neighbors file lawsuit over security concerns, commissioner calls move ‘selfish’

County Commissioner Rob Zapple responded to some of the concerns listed in that lawsuit.

Addressing concerns

The litigation claims security issues are the main concern and there were some complaints that the treatment center would not run background checks on its patients; the complaint stems from the presence of several sex offenders at Healing Transitions (according to state records), a Raleigh facility run by the same company that will run The Healing Place. For the Wilmington treatment center, this will not the case, Zapple said.

“Condition number nine [of the special use permit] states that, ‘No registered sexual offenders shall be allowed access to the site.’ This is a clear indication that it is the intent and the fact that all clients that are accepted into the Healing Place program will have a background check on entry to the facility,” he said.

A lack of professional security has also been a concern since the program operates on a peer-run system — but once again, the concerns are addressed directly in the SUP.

Condition number 17, ‘One licensed security professional shall be provided on-site and in the immediate vicinity during all hours of operation’ … The Healing Place will have professional security provided at all times,” Zapple said.

Related: Getting to the bottom of concerns over The Healing Place treatment center

The lawsuit also compares The Healing Place to the treatment center in Raleigh called Healing Transitions and it notes that almost 200 arrests have been made due to crimes committed by people at the facility.

While the number of arrests might be accurate, Zapple does have an issue with the lawsuit using this as an argument point without the proper background, as many of the arrests were for things like failure to appear in court.
“The ‘nearly 200 arrests’, phrase, without a time frame, background or definition, is misleading and creates a false impression of lawlessness at the facilities, which is not accurate. The Healing Transitions facilities in Raleigh have a much larger population than the 100-bed facility anticipated with the Healing Place facility in Wilmington. The vast majority of, ‘arrests’ at Healing Transitions in Raleigh, are for failure to appear in court, connected to outstanding non-felony misdemeanors – failure to pay back child support, traffic stops, or other charges pending,” Zapple said.
(Editor’s note: according to data from the Raleigh Police Department there were 250 calls for service – which are not the same as arrests – to the men’s facility over a two-year period. Those calls included 32 warrants including for failure to appear, 20 disturbances, 18 overdoses, 8 refusals to leave, 3 trespassing, 2 assaults, 1 assault on an officer, and several suspicious persons or vehicle calls.)
The whole point of a treatment facility like Healing Transitions is to give people an opportunity to recover from a low point in their lives and heal, not to commit more crimes, Zapple said, and the people there are there on their own accord.
“Homeless people, seeking help for their addictions will give the Healing Transitions’ address as their home address as they are seeking other services. Those that are in the program are there voluntarily. Most have been addicts for years and have reached a low point in their lives – lives that include bad mistakes and, for some, breaking the law to feed their addiction. They arrive at the Healing Transitions, men and women, to try to heal their lives – not to commit more crimes,” he said.
(Editor’s note: The Healing Place will open as a men’s only facility, but the county has noted it could expand under the current permit to include an additional facility for women.)
“The arrests are not for crimes being committed at, or around, the Healing Transitions facilities. It is a safe, healing environment that is peer supported and peer-led. Their mission is:  ‘… to offer innovative peer-based, recovery-oriented services to homeless, uninsured and underserved individuals with alcoholism and other drug addictions. Our program is specifically designed to rekindle a person’s desire and ability to return to a meaningful and productive life,'” Zapple concluded.

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