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Warminster inpatient recovery center would seek outpatient license


Avenues Recovery Center was back before the Warminster Township Zoning Hearing Board on Feb. 28 to discuss its plan to open a 150-bed inpatient addiction treatment and recovery center at the current Jefferson Health-Warminster site on Newtown Road.

The Avenues Recovery Center hearing has now spanned three nights. A fourth is scheduled for April 24.

Avenues is appealing an Aug. 30 interpretation of whether the proposed center constitutes a “hospital campus” or a “sober living facility.” Its plan also requires a special exception to the zoning code that would allow for the extension of an existing nonconforming use, and a variance to permit the facility in one of Warminster’s residential zones.

The board spent part of the Feb. 28 session trying to untangle seemingly conflicting testimony between two Avenues officials in front of an audience that included representatives from the nearby Montessori Children’s House and its Warminster neighbors.

CEO Hudi Alter’s testimony dealt with whether Avenues would offer outpatient — as well as inpatient — services, and how it would address community concerns over having it in the neighborhood.

Zoning board member Marci Sklar noted that Alter testified in December that he would only apply for inpatient licensure but, at the following hearing, Erica Mortimer, Avenues’ director of quality assurance, testified that the company would apply for all licensure, including outpatient.

“Do you intend to operate an outpatient facility?” Sklar asked.

Alter answered, “Operationally, it makes sense (to apply for all licensure) and insurance companies like to see that you hold all licenses.”

So Avenues would seek both inpatient and outpatient licenses although both Alter and Mortimer have testified that they have no intention of offering outpatient services.

Zoning board chairman Steve Wojciechowski asked Alter if there were a “condition of approval” not to apply for the outpatient license, “would you consider this option?”.

Alter replied that Avenues might need to have the outpatient license to account for some overlap of care for the patients receiving inpatient care who are being discharged and might need some level of outpatient care.

Regarding the safety of the neighbors, Alter was asked what would happen if a client exited the facility unaccompanied. Alter reiterated Mortimer’s testimony that clients would not be restrained. If they attempted to leave without proper discharge, they’d be reminded that they would not be readmitted into the program if they returned. The staff would attempt to work with the client to provide them a safe pick up for a family member or someone they know to take them somewhere else.

Alter was also asked if he’d be willing to fence in the facility. Alter testified, similar to Moritmer, that supervision of the patients, if outside, would include fencing, planting and buffering of the area.

Irene Contreras Reyes, spokeswoman for Jefferson Health, previously said that “Jefferson Health is committed to the community and will continue delivering high-quality, compassionate and equitable care,” in an email. “To fulfill its mission, Jefferson Health will continue operating services at the Warminster campus.”

Avenues operates an outpatient rehab center in Warwick Township, plus recovery communities in several other states.

The public has not yet had an opportunity to ask questions — the hearing will be continued on April 24 and was continued from three previous sessions on Feb. 28, Feb. 6 and Dec. 13.

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