100-bed treatment center and Wright Center’s medical clinic get zoning approval in Wilkes-Barre

100-bed treatment center and Wright Center’s medical clinic get zoning approval in Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE — Looking to correct a mistake made five years ago, Shane Casey went back to his original plan to open a 100-bed addiction treatment center.

Casey needed the approval Wednesday of the city’s Zoning Hearing Board that eventually approved his request to double the bed count, but not without impassioned pleas from longtime treatment professional Nick Colangelo.

The center Casey and his father James opened after renovating a former warehouse and bakery at 26 New Hill St. had been in operation for just three weeks this summer before closing. They couldn’t make it work at the 50-bed limit they agreed to in 2017 when they first went before the Board.

“We gave it a shot and we’re back here saying, ‘We shouldn’t have agreed to 50.’ We made a mistake. We made a mistake in agreeing to 50. We didn’t fully think it out,” the younger Casey said at the Board’s monthly hearing at City Hall.

With the help of their consultant Colangelo, who was formerly associated with Marworth and Clearbrook and Brookdale treatment centers, the Caseys regrouped, returning to the 100-count for the center that accepts Medicaid to treat men and women.

Board members were concerned the higher bed count was strictly for financial reasons, but Shane Casey and Colangelo said it was more of providing a much needed service than about profits.

Since 2017, there are fewer local facilities taking Medicaid patients, yet the demand has increased, Casey pointed out. “We don’t see any problem filling up that hundred number from this metro area,” he said.

Colangelo noted other facilities have 100 or more beds as well. He said methadone will not be dispensed at the center, though other medications will be used.

“They don’t take care of the people that the Caseys are trying to take care of and I think that’s imperative to our community and that should be part of the decision making also,” Colangelo told the Board’s five member.

Stressing what he said was a desperate need for the center, Colangelo said the Board’s approval of the application would be something they could be proud of. “This is a white hat for you guys,” he said.

At one point during the more than a hour long hearing, the Board considered requiring attorney Mark McNealis to submit a legal brief to support the Caseys’ case. The Board met briefly in executive session and returned to vote.

Afterward James Casey said the next step is to hire additional staff to resume operations.

“We just went on pause. We’re not even closed,” Casey said. “So everything that was official is as is and will remain official. Now we’re putting a team together to be able to operate the right way.”

Approval of the Wright Center Medical Group that does business as the Wright Center for Community Health was much smoother and also without opposition.

The non-profit Wright Center had been looking to come to Wilkes-Barre, but the closing on Oct. 31 of First Hospital in Kingston where it operates a clinic hastened the move from the West Side. The Wright Center recently purchased 169 N. Pennsylvania Ave. from King’s College.

Jennifer Walsh, senior vice president, executive counsel and chief governance officer for the Wright Center, said it’s arranged with Commonwealth Health System for an extension to stay at First Hospital. The immediate goal is to build out the space for the clinic that occupied 7,000 square feet at First Hospital in the new building. “We would like to be open and ready to see patients in mid-December,” Clark said. Over the next year the Wright Center will build out the rest of the 35,000 square foot building to include the other services for patients, none who are turned away for lack of health insurance or ability to pay.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

100-bed treatment center and Wright Center’s medical clinic get zoning approval in Wilkes-Barre