Utah Neighborhood Protests New Rehab Facility

By McCarton Ackerman 07/15/14

A proposed inpatient facility is being challenged on the grounds that it will pose a danger to the community.

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Mike Jorgensen of STEPS. Photo via

Residents of a Utah neighborhood lined up this week to protest a residential treatment facility coming into their neighborhood, sparking debate in the community.

The nonprofit Horsley Foundation and STEPS Recovery Center purchased the 18-acre Mount Benedict Monastery property in South Ogden and will convert the existing buildings into an inpatient rehab center. If the city approves a conditional use permit, 64 clients would live in the closed facility. Although the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, some who live near the property don’t view not allowing a rehab center to operate as being discriminatory.

“People are not to be discriminated against, we know that,” said Ogden-based attorney Adam Hensley. “But the Act does not imply that they have to go where they want to go. There are other places.” Nearby resident Jennifer Dunyon said she was “scared that if someone leaves that facility and they don’t know about it, and if it would any way harm my child—we’re in a residential community and it shouldn’t even be a discussion.”

STEPS Recovery Director Mike Jorgensen told protestors that he is a recovering alcoholic, and his daughter was in recovery from addictions to pain medication and heroin. He said the facility will emphasize a “spiritual-based program” rooted in the 12 steps and believed that his facility was perfectly suitable for a family-oriented community.

“We believe that addiction is a family disease,” he said. “We were able to learn what our role and responsibility was in her decision to stay sober—and more importantly what it was not.”

However, Nimbys protesting rehab centers are common throughout the country. In 2012, residents of Lawrenceville, GA, wanted a long-standing facility to move over concerns that it was driving down their property value, while authorities in Malibu declared a moratorium on any new rehab facilities being built that same year.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.