Stereotypes must not block new rehab clinic

Inpatient treatment facility is a good fit for Hilton Head's Main Street.

info@islandpacket.comDecember 12, 2013 

Substance abuse and mental illness are viewed very differently today than just a few decades ago. Increasingly, the world realizes addiction and mental health disorders are diseases which can be effectively managed with the proper care such as medication and counseling.

That's why it's disheartening to hear some business owners near The Main Street Inn & Spa espousing dated stereotypes and misguided stigmas as reasons they oppose a plan to turn the inn into an inpatient treatment center for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness.

Reasons for the opposition range from worries about the mentally disturbed moving into the area to drug dealers frequenting the spot to incorrect assumptions that the center would be similar to a mental health hospital where patients would be held against their will.

Some nearby shops and restaurant owners also say they worry they'll lose business when the inn closes and the guests stop coming.

The inn's owner wants to sell the 33-room property and have it rezoned for a residential treatment center where clinical services would be provided, including diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for drug and alcohol dependency and mental health needs of nonviolent patients. Patients would be admitted voluntarily.

"The proposed operator will not allow someone to be admitted unless they want to be admitted," explained attorney Walter Nester who represents the inn's owner "You will not have a police van and (officers) exiting someone in handcuffs. There won't be bars on the windows or change in the look of the building."

Despite arguments to the contrary, the center would not seem out of place. Main Street does feature restaurants and shops, but it also includes assisted living facilities and a range of medical and psychiatric offices, some of which certainly treat people with addiction issues and mental health needs. The nearby Hilton Head Hospital also provides services to similar patients.

Additionally, the center would employ doctors, nurses and other health professionals -- the type of well-paid jobs the town has said it is interested in attracting.

And the buyer, Behavioral Health Solutions, has a solid track record of running facilities across the country. It is no small startup.

And while we appreciate nearby business owners lamenting the loss of customers staying at the inn, it's not the responsibility of the inn owner to provide customers. The free market offers no guarantees of a steady flow of customers year after year.

The Town's Planning and Development Standards Committee has already signed off on the zoning change. We hope Town Council will follow suit and clear the way for a valuable asset for people working to improve the quality of their lives.

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