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Treatment center sets sights on expansion.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Eugene's oldest and largest residential treatment facility for substance abuse goes before a Eugene hearings official today to seek permission to expand its physical facility and the services it provides.

Hillary Wylie, executive director of Willamette Family Inc., formerly the Willamette Family Treatment Center, said the almost 50-year-old agency wants to add 12,000 square feet to its main building at 687 Cheshire St. in the Whiteaker neighborhood. It also hopes to lease three houses that have been moved next to its property, allowing it to add some new services and relocate others.

The new construction and use of the houses, which will be renovated, are covered by the agency's conditional use application. This permit allows the center to operate in a neighborhood zoned for residential use.

"We have to renew the permit on our main building, which was Ivorena (nursing home) before we took it over 13 years ago," Wylie said. "We desperately need more space so we can offer more of the services that we think are critically needed in the community. We've been working with the owners of these houses to try to make this happen."

If Willamette Family receives the needed approvals, one of the houses would become "sort of a group home" for women who have completed treatment, and their children, Wylie said. "Each family would have its own bedroom and bathroom, and other living and kitchen areas would be shared," she said. "They would be able to stay there until they were ready to reintegrate into the community."

Mental health services would be housed in another of the houses, Wylie said. "We got licensed for those services a year ago, but we don't have the place to offer them. We've been working for a long time to be able to do that."

Some administrative offices would be moved to the third house, freeing up space in the agency's main building, Wylie said. The two-story addition on the front of the existing structure would become a child development and youth education center.

"We have a licensed day care center on the premises now," Wylie said, "but it's not a good area for the children. If we could move them to a new space, we could have more outpatient treatment services."

Wylie estimates the cost of the desired improvements to the residential treatment campus at about $3.5 million.

"We're planning to start a capital campaign soon, to raise money for the project," she said. "We're in the early stages of doing a communitywide survey to gauge support for these services."

Ethan Nelson, chairman of the Whiteaker Community Council neighborhood organization, said some area residents "have some concerns about the effects of a two-story building and additional traffic."

"We want to have input (on the proposal), but we are supportive of Willamette Family's mission," Nelson said. "To the best of my knowledge, they are a good neighbor."

The community group sent a letter to the planning division saying, "We do appreciate the important social service role that Willamette Family Inc. plays in our community, and we value their continued work here under expanded facilities."

But the group expressed concerns that the two-story expansion and the use of the three additional houses could "have a significantly negative impact on livability for surrounding neighbors."

The group recommends that the hearings official impose several conditions on the proposed development, including screening and increased setbacks for buildings, parking lots and outdoor use areas; requirements for tree preservation to help screen the facility from adjacent neighbors; and completion of a traffic impact analysis based on the offering of additional social services.

The 29-page staff report prepared by the city planning staff concludes that Willamette Family's application meets the standards for approval by the city. However, it also proposes conditions regarding tree preservation and planting, and siting and screening of outdoor use areas from adjacent homes. It also recommends location of service entries as far as possible from nearby dwellings.

Willamette Family Inc. began in the early 1960s when George and Honey Buckley opened an alcohol detoxification center in their home, according to the agency's Web site. The home became the city's first residential treatment center.

In the mid-1980s, Buckley House added two licensed residential treatment programs: Carlton Substance Abuse Center for men, and Sunrise House for women. The organization became part of a community response team in 1988, cooperating with the city and White Bird Clinic to operate a van that transported inebriated people to a sobering station at Buckley House.

In 1991, the agency opened a residential treatment center for addicted women who are pregnant or have children that offered child care, health care, parenting classes, case management and follow-up services after completion of treatment. Three years later, the agency moved to the Cheshire Street facility and soon after added an intensive outpatient program for pregnant addicted teenagers. In 1999, the men's facility relocated to Green Acres Road and added an outpatient program for employed men and women to its inpatient treatment program for men.
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Title Annotation:Real Estate and Housing; HHHH Neighbors say they support the agency's mission but are concerned about its footprint
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 24, 2007
Words:840
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