The Examiner

Proposed Treatment Center Rankles Armonk Neighborhood

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The house at 14-16 Cole Drive in Armonk that will be the home of a residential treatment facility for adolescents if a California-based entity receives approval for the site.
The house at 14-16 Cole Drive in Armonk that will be the home of a residential treatment facility for adolescents if a California-based entity receives approval for the site.

Residents of a quiet Armonk street are hoping to prevent an adolescent residential treatment center from moving into a nearby eight-bedroom estate fearing the activity will threaten their neighborhood, properties and quality of life.

A petition against the plan, which opponents described as “a substance abuse treatment facility,” was submitted to the Town of North Castle Monday afternoon from residents in the vicinity of 14-16 Cole Drive. That is the location where Paradigm Treatment Centers, a Malibu, Calif.-based center that specializes in therapy and rehabilitative programs for teen depression, anxiety and addiction, is looking to operate.

A Nov. 7 letter from Paradigm co-founder and CEO Cole Rucker to town Supervisor Michael Schiliro detailed how the center would house up to “eight individuals suffering from mental illness, including depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, co-occurring substance use disorders and/or co-occurring eating disorders.” The letter was received by the town on Nov. 14.

Cole Drive property owners and other nearby residents said they were dismayed when they first discovered last Monday that Paradigm is looking to move into the neighborhood, three days before Thanksgiving, without any previous warning. The owner of the house, Ted Mathas, the CEO of New York Life, reached terms to lease the property to Paradigm in August for $25,000 a month, the town supervisor’s office confirmed last week.

Mathas put the house up for sale last year, listing in October 2015 with Houlihan Lawrence for a reported $5,995,000, but it never sold.

One resident, William Potvin, said residents are worried because of the emphasis on treatment for addictions and disorders on Pardigm’s website, including drug and alcohol abuse.

“This is very different than having a group home that helps the developmentally disabled,” Potvin said. “If this goes through, then it can go through in any neighborhood.”

Another resident, Lisa Kolker Brocato, said neighbors have been further angered that Paradigm’s website has already begun marketing the new center, although it has yet to receive approval from the state Office of Mental Health (OMH), the agency that oversees these types of community residential facilities in New York.

“That’s very upsetting to me that this (website) is up and live and they’re advertising this and the town board wasn’t even contacted yet,” Brocato said. “We don’t know if this is legal or not.”

Residents are planning to attend the North Castle Town Board meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) night when officials are expected to receive and accept their petition.

An OMH spokesman said under Section 41.34 of the state mental hygiene law, a municipality has 40 days to formally respond to the agency from the date that it receives a notification.

The municipality then has three options: approve the site, recommend one or more alternate locations in its jurisdiction that would be more suitable or oppose the application based on oversaturation of similar type facilities in its jurisdiction, according to the law. No response from a municipality would enable an applicant to move ahead and seek approvals from OMH.

Spokesman Ben Rosen said last Wednesday that OMH has yet to receive an application from Paradigm Treatment Centers.

“When OMH receives an application from a provider to open a licensed program, we follow a detailed Prior Approval Review process to ensure that the proposed program meets criteria for quality, safety, and fiscal viability,” he said.

Messages left for Rucker and Executive Director Jerri Anna Phenix were not returned by press time.

In Rucker’s Nov. 7 letter to the town, he stated that one of the goals of the program is to establish community residences to allow those who are in need of its services to be close to family and friends.

A typical stay lasts 30 to 45 days and costs $49,900 a month.

“Facilities of this type provide opportunities for normal life experiences, housing, meals, companionship and social events,” Rucker stated in his letter.

There is staff supervision, training in activities of daily living and clinical support, he continued. Daily activities include individual and group therapy and psycho education groups.

However, the residents’ petition, which The Examiner obtained on Monday, said in addition to oversaturation, the town should explore the absence of an established need in Westchester for this type of facility; substantial alteration of the character of the community; issues of public health, safety and welfare arising from oversaturation and substantial alteration of the character of the community, such as traffic and town and emergency services; a negative effect on property values and marketability; and “absence of any indication that the proposed facility would have any ‘community’ component but rather be purely a profit-based turnstile.”

Brocato said she will be among the residents seeking to find out more about Paradigm and also educate themselves on their rights as property owners.

“We want to learn what they’re doing and understand what this means for us,” she said. “We do want to understand what our rights are here, too, to know what we can do to potentially prevent this from happening.”

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