Weirton's Zoning Board of Appeals discussed a proposed detox center and how it should define the facility at Tuesday's regular meeting, which drew more attendance than usual.
A 12-bed facility planned for 243 American Way, near Kwik King and Weirton Medical Center, has been described as a future "crisis stabilization unit/detox center for substance abuse."
Rod Rosnick, chief code official, said the original application stated the facility would be classified a "group home," but the state's definitions and classifications do not match the city's Unified Development Ordinance definitions.
David Hildreth, deputy director of the West Virginia Real Estate Division, requested a use determination and conditional use permit approval for the detox center, which has already been constructed.
"The state of West Virginia has built a number of these during the last 10 years. We've always referred to them as group homes, and they've always been accepted as such," Hildreth said.
An application by Billy Pryor General Contracting was submitted Aug. 15, 2013. That application was reviewed and approved for construction in November.
The city of Weirton was advised in March that the property wasn't going to be used as a group home and was going to be a drug rehab operated by Healthways, Rosnick said.
"I don't believe their use qualifies as a group home under the city of Weirton's definition," he said.
He added that Healthways sent a detailed description of the facility's intended use and that he researched the development ordinance in an effort to find a definition to match, but none of the terms specifically hit what was being proposed.
Kimberly Walsh, deputy commissioner of West Virginia's Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, provided an outline of the medically supervised services that would be provided at the site and governed by the Bureau of Medical Services under the Department of Health and Human Resources.
"Individuals are supervised 24/7 with very limited abilities to have any kind of exit or outside engagement because they're in crisis and being monitored during that time," Walsh said.
"The reason we are involved is simply to develop the structure. The Brooke-Hancock area had no such service, so we opted to prioritize this as a result of the Governor's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse and work that they've done in the past few years. We're bringing a sought-after service that was recommended by your local task forces to your area."
The facility would be voluntary for patients seeking treatment. Methadone would not be offered as treatment there, but Suboxone would be used to treat heroin addiction, Walsh said.
She added that "locking people in" is not allowed at the center under state provisions, but a time-release system on doors would be in use, alerting staff whenever a patient enters or exits.
Board member Mike Simon and Chairman Vince Azzarello, who participated in the meeting via speaker phone, said that they would need more information in order to reach a decision.
"I'm well aware that we need the facility in this area. My feeling is wondering about the appropriateness of the location," said board member Robert Campbell.