FLORENCE, Ky. -- Residents and leaders in Cold Spring got a chance Thursday to pose their questions and concerns over a contentious plan for a neighboring drug rehab center, and what started as a calm community meeting quickly turned into a series of passionate arguments.
Brighton Center, Inc., which operates an addiction recovery center in Florence, wants to expand its residential services to a 55-acre site just across Cold Spring's city line. Officials at Brighton say the new campus would help cut down on a nearly four-month long waiting list for new clients and those who are court-ordered into the program.
"We have on average about 50 women on our waiting list," said Anita Prater, who leads the Florence operations. "There's a huge need to expand our capacity."
But Brighton's plans have drawn opposition from Cold Spring's top leaders and some residents, who have concerns about the impact such a facility might have on local traffic, safety and even property values.
"I want to see those people helped, but there are certain locations that it doesn't even make sense to have it there," Cold Spring Mayor Angelo Penque told WCPO earlier this month.
He did not return a call this week requesting an interview, but reiterated his argument Thursday at the community meeting: Although he wants drug users to have a spot to recover, he said, he doesn't approve of its proposed location. He added that he would take the case to court if necessary.
For women who say Brighton's services have helped them, the pushback is concerning.
"There aren't enough places like Brighton for all the people who are out there trying to get help," said Deven Beers, who will graduate next month from the center's more than year-long recovery program that offers housing, education and counseling to more than 100 women a year.
"There are people literally dying while they're on lists just waiting to get help," Beers said. "We're not bad people trying to be better. We're sick people trying to get well."
Traffic, safety, property values among top concerns
In a letter to residents earlier this month, Penque reaffirmed his position against the proposed center.
"Please be assured that the city is NOT in favor of this being established at this address and is actively working to let the objections of our residents be known," he wrote.
READ the mayor's letter.
Under Brighton's proposal, the former Campbell County Boys Lodge at 5161 Skyline Drive would be transformed into a residential campus serving up to 52 women at a time.
The property is located at the end of of the narrow, winding Skyline Drive, which passes by Campbell County Education Service Center, Cline Elementary School, a day-care center, the Cold Spring city building and several private homes along the way.
""The citizens are very upset," Cold Spring's Penque told WCPO. "They're very concerned about the infrastructure. The road. There's one way in, one way out. It all has to go through Cold Spring."
Brighton's Prater said she's heard from Cold Spring's mayor and a "handful" of council members.
"They tell us their top concerns are increased traffic, safety and local property values decreasing," said Prater. "In the eight years that we've been (in Florence) we've not had one safety concern reported to us, and we've haven't heard any complaints from our neighbors about burdensome traffic or property values."
At Brighton's Florence location, up to 100 women can be housed at a time. For a majority of the women, their participation in the program is part of a court-ordered requirement of their probation, Prater said. The center, which does not offer medication-assisted programs such as methadone, boasts that more than 121 women completed all phases of a 15-month program last year. Of those women, more than 92 percent were using illegal drugs before the program. After six months in the program, fewer than 4 percent had reported a relapse.
"When these women come to us, they're very broken," Prater said. "As they begin recovery, you can see the light return to their eyes. They begin to rebuild relationships. They get their kids back, and many make incredible changes in their lives."
Prater says she will be among several Brighton representatives available to speak with the public on Thursday.
Hear from those helped by Brighton
"Brighton gave me my life back," Fossett said. "I'm able to be a mom now. I'm able to be a daughter. They showed me how to live again."
"Before I came here, I didn't want to live anymore," Ford said. Now I actually have a life I want to live. I have a relationship with my family and I help other people through this. If it wasn't for Brighton, I'd probably be dead by now."
"Before I came here, I had no sense of purpose whatsoever," Burns said. "I struggled with perfectionism, and I wouldn't attempt anything if I thought I would mess it up. This house has taught me that I do have purpose.
"This has by far been the most profound change that's helped me in my life," Creider said. "I have a job now, and every other Saturday, I get to drive to Louisville to see my daughter, and she knows that we're going to go have fun."