It’s a sign-of-the-times story. Successful local conglomerate tries to refit struggling bus parking lot as urban RV park. When that fails, it opens a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic.
In another sign of the times, the zoning board unanimously approves the renovation plan and there is no public comment.
Where is this happening? Atlantic City. Who is the businessman? David Goddard, Chief Executive of Ole Hansen & Sons Inc, which owns and operates the Downbeach Express bridge, the Atlantic City Boatyard and OHS Sand & Gravel, among other businesses.
The detox center will be located at the company’s bus drivers’ lounge up Route 40, near the boatyard. Ole Hansen currently has offices on the site that were converted from rooms for bus drivers who needed a place to rest back when Atlantic City was the third most popular Greyhound destination in the country (after New York and L.A.!) Now those offices – which still have individual bathrooms – will be converted back into 26 single rooms for inpatient treatment. In a best-case-scenario, the clinic could open as early as August, according to Robert Snyder, executive director of clinical services at Ole Hansen’s Enlightened Solutions.
The need for more beds to treat abuse disorders has been well-publicized, with Governor Chris Christie making it the focus of his state-of-the-state address this year. But there is still a stigma attached to drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment, and in other municipalities, recovery-center companies have struggled with “not in my backyard” public reactions. In some ways the Ole Hansen site is perfect because it is just offshore – sandwiched between Route 40, the bay and the Expressway – and outside of a residential area. But it’s just across the Black Horse Pike from Atlantic City High School.
After prompting by the city planning director, the company’s officials promised they would talk to the high school about the plan.
The Atlantic City zoning board also had questions about safety and security. Although the area is not suited for pedestrian traffic, there are frequently people walking between Absecon Island and the motels and bus stops along Route 40 – and the board wanted to know what the company might do to deal with unexpected customers trying to drop in. When those questions were answered, there was only one other query.
Would there be any way to make sure Atlantic City residents, who might not have the means to pay for private services, have access to the facility?
Jennifer Hansen, who has herself been in recovery for almost 21 years, said the Hansen Foundation typically provides two scholarships to pay for a men’s bed and a women’s bed at its residential treatment centers in Galloway and tries through the foundation to help as many people as it can. “This is obviously my passion,” said Hansen. “We have scholarshipped a lot of care and we continue to do so. In the case where people are not financially able to afford the treatment, we have other resources. It’s not unlimited, obviously, but we do the best we can.”
Currently, the company operates residential treatment centers known as Hansen Houses in Galloway and seven sober-living houses around Atlantic County. When the detox center opens, the company will be able to offer a full chain of treatment. The new Atlantic City clinic will focus exclusively on inpatient services for people in the first phase of recovery, offering a five to 10-day program of intensive treatment, officials told the board.
“There are very limited resources for detox,” Hansen told the board, noting that now the company sends people about two-and-a-half hours north to Serenity at Summit in the north of the state. “We wanted to be able to control the whole continuum of care and provide the type of services that we think we can do better than anyone else.”
The company is also expanding in Ventnor. “We have just purchased a building in Ventnor where we will be having some out-patient services as well,” Hansen said.
At Route 40, we have been trying to cover the opioid epidemic from a different perspective, writing about how the county government has been handling its budget for treatment services and about the local need for the overdose antidote Narcan. We would like to hear stories direct from people who have been affected by this epidemic: