AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
When the prospect of having a residential treatment facility that would help people with alcohol or drug addiction comes up, it can sometimes raise a lot of concerns from residents who may live near the facility. Chief among those concerns are what happens if patients wander off and pose a threat to nearby residents.
Such is the case with Summit Counseling’s proposed residential treatment facility that they would like to open in a rural area five miles south of Alexander, which was the subject of a public meeting last week.
Public safety must be a high priority when it comes to any residential treatment facility. But, one has to look at what Summit Counseling is proposing to do at this facility before jumping to the conclusion that having such a treatment center would be a bad thing to have in McKenzie County.
First, as being proposed, all of the patients that would be at the treatment center would be there on a voluntary basis. That means they are trying to overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol and want to be able to stay in the area and be close to family and friends while they receive treatment. Because these people are not being court-ordered to have treatment, they should pose a very low level risk of wanting to leave until their treatment is completed.
It would be a completely different scenario if the facility was taking in court-ordered patients for treatment. These would be people who more than likely don’t want treatment and would be looking for any opportunity to leave the facility.
Second, we need to recognize that McKenzie County and western North Dakota has a very high incidence of drug and alcohol addiction. While the misuse of drugs and alcohol has always been a problem, as our population grows, so does the problem. Without the option of having a residential treatment facility in close proximity, the likelihood of people choosing to seek treatment is very small. And in most cases, those people never enter treatment voluntarily.
Which is why Summit Counseling’s proposal to utilize a remote site in McKenzie County makes a lot of sense and would be a great service to this region of the state.
As the owners of Summit Counseling point out, there is a great need for such a facility in western North Dakota. According to them, population numbers show that the western North Dakota region could support three addiction recovery treatment centers. And at this time the region has none. Which means that patients seeking addiction treatment must travel to Minot or Bismarck or out of state.
While those of us that may not have family or friends with addiction problems may not see the need for a residential addiction treatment center, there are many others that would welcome having such a facility nearby to help their loved ones.
Are there risks to having a residential addiction treatment facility in McKenzie County? Probably. But those risks should be minimal and should be worked out as Summit Counseling’s application for zoning changes makes its way through the county zoning and planning department process before it is either approved or denied by the county commissioners.
The bigger question that county residents and ultimately the McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners need to answer is, “Do the benefits of having a residential treatment facility in the county outweigh the negatives?”
Since other cities in North Dakota and across the state have found a way to make such facilities a part of their communities, there is no reason to believe that McKenzie County can’t house such a treatment option equally as well.