ELIZABETHTOWN - Several local officials last week visited Daytop Village, a rehabilitation facility for adolescents in Mendham, N.J., at the behest of Sandy Lewis, who says he would like to see a similar facility for adolescents and adults in the town of Essex.
Lewis, a former Wall Street broker who now owns an organic farm in Essex and is best known locally for winning a court battle with the state Adirondack Park Agency over farmworker housing on his property, founded Daytop Mendham, which opened in 1992.
Daytop bought the old county home in Essex, which adjoins Lewis' farm, with Lewis' support in 1998, but plans to put a rehab center there never materialized due to local opposition, and Daytop sold the property.
Essex County officials have said repeatedly, since Lewis first brought the issue up at the Jan. 4 Board of Supervisors meeting and again at Monday's Ways and Means Committee meeting, that it is a good idea but the county can't afford to help fund it. County Clerk Joe Provoncha said Wednesday, shortly before leaving, that the county's role in helping get such a facility off the ground would likely be in trying to persuade town of Essex residents that it would be a good thing.
The land in Essex Lewis wants to see it on is owned by several people now. The property owners contacted Provoncha last week and told him the land isn't for sale, Board of Supervisors' Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay said at Monday's meeting of the board's Ways and Means Committee.
Provoncha, Assistant District Attorney Brian Felton, town of Lewis Supervisor David Blades, Essex contractor Calvin Cumm, Thom Randall of Denton publications and Elizabethtown lawyer Martina Baillie went on the trip, meeting Lewis in New Jersey. They left Wednesday afternoon and came back late Thursday. The only cost to the county was the gas mileage; Daytop paid for their stay at a Marriott hotel there. Provoncha and Blades will be giving a written report on the trip to the board.
Lewis said at the April 26 Board of Supervisors' meeting that the facility could be set up as a nonprofit and wouldn't cost the county anything.
"The guys with the bucks, the guys who have a concern about their neighbors are going to have an ample opportunity to help here," Lewis told the Enterprise Monday.
Lewis said ensuring enough community support is important before something like this can happen, and that this could happen as more people become aware of the successes at Daytop.
"Those who saw it, to a man, came away with that conclusion," Lewis said. "Anyone who's seen it since 1992 has come away with that conclusion." Lewis also said Daytop has gotten better since its founding. "It's a profound experience, which is why I suggested we all go."
Lewis said Daytop has a five-year recovery rate more than four times higher than the 20 percent seen at most facilities. He said he would like to see a clinic where the patients would farm, raising crops and animals organically. Lewis also said the facility could be used to teach others how to run a similar clinic.
"We would be the Mecca of treatment centers, right here," Lewis said.
Contact Nathan Brown at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.