Plan for drug treatment house worries neighbors

OnTrack Inc. has purchased a large house in east Medford for a residential addiction treatment program, but the purchase has worried many neighbors.

OnTrack bought the house at 3512 Lone Pine Road for $450,000 in November 2017, according to Jackson County property data.

"I realize there is a need for something like this, but I don't see the need for it in a residential area," said neighbor Bill Van Pelt. "It doesn't make sense."

Van Pelt said he learned about the sale a few weeks ago at his dentist's office, then went around his neighborhood with fliers to alert people.

"No one knew anything about it," he said.

OnTrack Executive Director Dr. Alan Ledford, who became the new head of the addiction treatment provider in September 2017, said he had hoped to speak to neighbors about plans for the property before rumors started circulating.

"Before we move anybody in, we'll have an open house, give tours and answer questions," he said. "If there are problems, we want people to let us know. We'll be very open to finding solutions."

OnTrack hopes to move its Dad's Program for recovering fathers from a house at 515 Franquette Street in Medford to the house on Lone Pine Road, Ledford said.

OnTrack would first need state approval of a license and authorization to make the move. Renovations and remodeling would have to be finished, as well, Ledford said.

Franquette Street is located in central Medford between Riverside Avenue and Interstate 5.

Last year, the Oregon Health Authority faulted OnTrack for filthy, substandard housing, expired food and other problems in its Dad's Program. Patients reported threats and physically abusive behavior by a program director.

OHA also found significant health and safety risks in OnTrack's addiction recovery program for mothers.

Ledford said OnTrack is working to address the many issues and improve its housing. Relocating the Dad's Program is part of that plan.

The new location on Lone Pine Road would offer a safer neighborhood and a better house, Ledford said.

"It's in a decent neighborhood for these folks to get their lives back on track," he said. "We're trying to get people back to being productive members of society. We're trying to help people and families put their lives back together. You don't push people into worse neighborhoods to do that."

The east Medford house could accommodate about 10 fathers in recovery and their young children. However, most of the children of the fathers in the program wouldn't live in the house because they are in the primary custody of other caregivers, such as mothers, grandparents and foster parents. Most children would visit their dads at the house, Ledford said.

Ledford said some of the fathers are involved in the criminal justice system, but he said many of their crimes are related to drug addiction.

"It's not a high-risk population. It's folks trying to turn their lives around and trying to put their families back together," he said. "They're looking to make changes."

He added, "If you take away the drug use and get in recovery, the criminal activity stops."

Ledford said the Dad's Program house would be fully staffed during the day, and would always have two trained staff members on site at night.

Ledford said the zoning for the house allows for multifamily housing. He noted The Springs at Veranda Park retirement community is another high-density housing provider in the neighborhood.

Van Pelt said he has a range of concerns about OnTrack's purchase of the house. He said children, senior citizens and others living and walking near the house would be exposed to patients with addiction issues.

"They are not confined. These people can meander in and out. They will not be restrained," he said. "I don't like the sound of it."

Van Pelt said OnTrack's ownership of the house will cause property values to fall in the neighborhood.

"I've asked several people, 'If you had children, would you buy a house next to a unit like this?' Everyone has said, 'No.' Our property values have taken a hit," he said.

Van Pelt is also concerned about traffic, parking problems and the house's proximity to Lone Pine Elementary School.

Ledford said the people in the Dad's Program don't necessarily come to residential treatment with their vehicles. The average stay is about three to six months, he said.

Ledford said the site has plenty of parking behind the house for staff members.

The program participants are not confined, he said.

"We don't restrict them. We don't say, 'You can't leave.' People have a choice to be there. We do have structure and expectations. If you don't meet the expectations, maybe you shouldn't be there. We're doing treatment for people who want to be in treatment and who need to be in treatment," Ledford said.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

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