WILKES-BARRE — Looking to right a mistake made five years ago, Shane Casey has returned to his original plan to open a 100-bed addiction treatment center.
On Wednesday, Casey sought approval from the city’s zoning board, which ultimately approved his request to double the number of beds, but not without passionate pleas from longtime treatment specialist Nick Colangelo.
The centre, which Casey and his father James opened after renovating a former warehouse and bakery at 26 New Hill Street, opened for just three weeks this summer before closing. They couldn’t get it to work at the 50-bed limit they agreed to in 2017 when they first went before the Council.
“We tried and came back here saying, ‘We shouldn’t have settled for 50.’ We were wrong. We made a mistake by agreeing to 50. We didn’t think it through,” the younger Casey said at the Council’s monthly hearing at City Hall.
With the help of their consultant, Colangelo, who was previously associated with Marworth and Clearbrook and Brookdale treatment centers, the Caseys regrouped, returning to the top 100 for the center, which accepts Medicaid for men and women.
Council members were concerned that more beds were purely for financial reasons, but Shane Casey and Colangelo said it had more to do with providing much-needed services than profit.
Since 2017, there have been fewer local facilities accepting Medicaid patients, but demand has increased, Casey noted. “We don’t see any problem filling that hundred rooms from that metro area,” he said.
Colangelo noted that other facilities also have 100 or more beds. He said that methadone will not be dispensed at the center, but other drugs will be used.
“They’re not taking care of the people that Casey is trying to take care of, and I think that’s very important to our community and that should be part of the decision-making as well,” Colangelo told the five Council members.
Stressing what he said is a desperate need for a center, Colangelo said the Council’s approval of the application would be something they can be proud of. “That’s a white hat for you guys,” he said.
At one point during the more than hour-long hearing, the Board considered asking attorney Mark McNeillis to submit a legal brief in support of Casey’s case. The board met for a brief executive session and returned to voting.
Afterward, James Casey said the next step would be to hire additional staff to resume operations.
“We just went on a break. We’re not even closed,” Casey said. “Therefore, everything that was official is and will remain official. Now we are putting together a team to be able to work properly.”
The approval of the Wright Center Medical Group, which operates as the Wright Community Health Center, was much smoother and unopposed.
The nonprofit Wright Center wanted to come to Wilkes-Barre, but the Oct. 31 closing of First Hospital in Kingston, where the clinic operates, hastened the move from the West Side. The Wright Center recently bought 169 N. Pennsylvania Ave from King’s College.
Jennifer Walsh, senior vice president, executive board and chief operating officer of the Wright Center, said an agreement has been reached with Commonwealth Health System to extend the stay at First Hospital. The immediate task is to rebuild a polyclinic in the new building, which occupied 7 thousand square meters of the First Hospital. “We would like to be open and ready to accept 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 other services for patients, none of whom were turned away because of lack of health insurance or ability to pay.
Contact Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.