DC Department of Behavioral Health Oblivious to Perfect Storm Brewing in Hill East
by Larry Janezich
DC’s Department of Behavioral Services’ (DBH) faulty assumption contributes to a perfect storm brewing in Hill East at the intersection of 15th Street and Independence Avenue, SE.
Monday night, Hill East residents and ANC6B Commissioners Jayaraman and Krepp learned for the first time that the newly constructed Community Action Group (CAG) headquarters at 201 15th Street, SE, which has been publicized as administrative offices, will seek to be certified to provide substance abuse and other counseling services for up to 50 clients a day at the location. Jayaraman had questioned the Department of Behavioral Services (DBH) regarding their understanding of whether the CAG was going to apply for a certification as a substance abuse recovery clinic, and was told “we do not expect CAG to seek certification” for the 15th Street location.
CAG is already certified to operate as a clinic for space it leases at 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and Monday night, CAG President Janice Gordon commented that she was looking forward to a moving into the new building because of the expense of leasing the Pennsylvania Avenue location. Gordon said that the CAG headquarters aimed to serve the community and would perform spiritual, social, recreation and health and wellness functions but would not provide details on what these functions entailed. She said, “Once we get into the building the space that we have will determine specifically how far we’ll go in any direction.” She said CAG had not yet had any conversations with DBH.
According to the CAG website for the 12th and Pennsylvania location, “The treatment center provides outpatient care. There are special groups and programs for persons with co-occuring mental and substance abuse disorders, persons with HIV and AIDS, gays and lesbians, seniors and older adults, pregnant and postpartum women, women, men, and criminal justice groups.”
The ANC Commissioners and nearby neighbors are concerned because another substance abuse recovery clinic is seeking to open a block away. Andromeda Transcultural Health Services expects
35 – 40 up to 100 visits a day from its clients. See CHC posting here: http://bit.ly/1XprQ7W
Between the two facilities there is a 7-11 – weeks from opening – which will sell fast food, soft drinks, and cigarettes. Also between them is a mom and pop market selling alcohol. The intersection of Independence, Massachusetts, and 15th Street provides considerable greenspace and an alley behind the 7-11 that has been a hangout spot for public drinking for years, if not decades. Payne school, City Center Charter School, and the Early Childhood Education Center are within 1000 feet of at least one of the proposed clinics. DC General is four blocks away – from which (according to Jayaraman) some of the Andromeda’s clients will be drawn.
All of this surrounded by a diverse residential area of Hill East.
The two ANC commissioners have been trying to alleviate the impact on the community. They pushed hard and apparently successfully to prevent sale of alcohol by the 7-11. Jayaraman is appealing the Certificate of Occupancy for Andromeda with the Bureau of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) based on its mis-classification of itself as a general business office when it is actually a medical treatment facility. Yesterday, Krepp emailed DBH to ask for a sit-down with CAG, Andromeda, and ANC Commissioners. As of last night she had not received a reply.
Asked for reaction to the meeting Monday night, Krepp said her take away was she was concerned about the lack of transparency and the lack of communication between DBH, CAG, and Andromeda. She said she was surprised to learn that CAG would be seeing up to 50 clients recovering from substance abuse each day. Jayaraman said that CAG was being “very vague about what it’s going to do on 15th Street.” He said he is “extremely concerned about what rational DBH has for locating two facilities providing recovery counseling services within one block of each other.”
Gary Peterson, Chair of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) Zoning Committee, told CHC that the committee had taken a position opposing Andromeda on the grounds that it has been mis-classified as a business office when it is actually a treatment facility and that zoning regulations restrict whatever is done on the site to “neighborhood serving commercial” enterprises. Petersen said that Andromeda had not made the case that their clients were from the neighborhood and it was his understanding that many of the clients are referred by the courts and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). CHRS will file a letter of opposition with the Bureau of Zoning Adjustment on that basis.
It is not clear whether the same claims will or could be raised against CAG when it applies for certification as a medical facility at it’s new location.
The Board of Zoning Adjustment will hold a hearing on the Jayaraman’s appeal on July 28th.