Dear Editor:

This letter is in support of use of Morgan Memorial Hospital as a new behavioral health treatment facility. My interest in this is driven by the desire to see the building take on its highest and best use, provide significant economic impact to the community, benefit Morgan Medical Center, and deliver life-changing recovery services to its clients.

I am a person in long-term recovery (29 years). Since 1985, my career has been solely executive healthcare administration, the last 4 of which was as CEO of Advantage Behavioral Health, one of the largest and most diverse recovery program providers in Georgia. In an effort to understand the facts about what is being proposed, I have met with MMH and spoken at length with the CEO of Flashpoint Recovery.

Stigma surrounding addiction and recovery has discouraged forward movement on this project. Some have made provocative statements denigrating people in recovery and perpetuating negative myths about the way residential treatment programs work. This confirms a lack of experience and understanding of the recovery process and further promotes the scourge of stigma. Instead, we should act to eliminate barriers and reduce discrimination against people in recovery. Recovery saves lives and creates new life. This idea should move forward into action.

More importantly, substance abuse treatment requires medical services which the new recovery center would be obligated to provide. This is required under Georgia Department of Community Health rules. Flashpoint commits to CARF accreditation, which means there are many requirements for patient safety, privacy, and appropriate medical care. There will be a partial hospitalization program and medication assisted therapy, but only for its inpatient clients, and will not be offered to the general public.

These types of facilities have less affect on the surrounding neighborhood than a hospital. There are no sirens at all hours, there are no policing requirements, and there are no dangerous criminals or escapees, as may be found at any hospital. Many studies have found that these types of facilities have no effect on local property values, and a renovated and working facility may help improve property values, as opposed to an empty building. The rumor that this type of facility is a “methadone clinic” is simply not true and must be dispelled.

The economic impact of a new behavioral health facility with 80 full-time employees, over $3M payroll, and $6M total budget trumps almost any other use of the building. When economic multipliers are applied, the magnifying effect is much greater.

An empty hospital building is difficult to sell at a fair price to a non-medical buyer. Money is spent year-round on maintenance and upkeep. Its size and complexity means that any purchaser would have to pay the full price of upkeep. It makes far more sense to occupy it with a business that can utilize the entire space and have the resources to improve the building. Flashpoint can do that, and the property would go back on the tax rolls for the benefit of the entire community.

Timely sale of the old hospital at full market price is a common sense proposal that begs a common sense solution and productive, good-faith dialogue. It’s a big and unique project with an out-sized positive result. The buyer is willing to proceed, the recovery community is optimistic, and time is precious. I hope this project can come to a productive conclusion.

Oliver (O. J.) Booker


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