State grants St. Joe’s $1.2 million for detox

Funding almost set to buy, construct facility on John Munn Road

St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers plans to buy the former Swift Hardware store on John Munn Road, Saranac Lake, seen Wednesday, and turn it into a facility that houses a 10-bed drug and alcohol detox center, a 24/7 crisis center and a relocated outpatient clinic. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — A $1.2 million state grant, announced Tuesday, will let St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers build a 10-bed drug and alcohol detox center on John Munn Road — only the second such facility in all of northern New York.

“There’s a seven-bed facility in Canton, but it’s almost always full,” St. Joe’s CEO Bob Ross said Wednesday. Therefore, someone suffering through drug and alcohol withdrawal in the North Country must generally go to the Albany or Syracuse areas to get through it with medical assistance.

“We take very seriously that as an agency located in Saranac Lake, we consider ourselves to be part of the honored tradition of healing that takes place in our community,” Ross said.

In 2015 St. Joe’s and Adirondack Health officials talked openly of teaming up on a detox facility at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, but instead the new facility will be the former Swift Hardware store on John Munn Road behind the Saranac Lake Civic Center. The building will be overhauled to house three St. Joe’s services: the new detox facility, a new 24/7 crisis center and the local outpatient clinic, which would be relocated from its temporary site on upper Broadway, across from Kinney Drugs.

For each of these three, St. Joe’s plans to use a grant from New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to cover capital costs of buying the property and construction. Two of those grants are already promised.

The $1.2 million is for the detox unit, part of a $10 million round of OASAS grants Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday to add 84 detox beds around the state.

“Medically Supervised Withdrawal and Stabilization Programs offer medical assessment, information about recovery support, family treatment, clinical services, and medication to manage withdrawal symptoms,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

A $450,000 grant, announced Feb. 13, will pay for the 24/7 “Open Access Center.” People will be able to come there during an addiction crisis for immediate care and referral to other services. Nurses will be there at all times, and doctors will be on call and sometimes present, Ross said. He added that the governor wants to set up one Open Access Center in each of New York’s 10 economic development regions, and this would be the one for the North Country.

St. Joe’s is waiting for a third OASAS grant of $800,000 to $850,000 to pay for permanently moving its outpatient clinic to the new site. The organization recently had to move this facility out of its longtime home on Woodruff Street. Currently, addicts go for follow-up counseling and treatment to a temporary office on upper Broadway, across from Kinney Drugs. Ross said he hopes to hear about this third grant in the next couple of months. Unlike the other two, it isn’t going through the competitive request-for-proposals process because it’s to move an existing service rather than start a new one.

To shave years off the timeline, St. Joe’s has worked out a new way to finance the project. Ross explained that it will borrow money in advance of state grants from Primary Care Development Corporation, which operates like a nonprofit bank for primary-care health facilities in the New York City area. This is PCDC’s first foray into either upstate or addiction services, Ross said.

“Working with PCDC, we should be able to go from the approval process to opening the doors in less than one year,” Ross said. He noted that when St. Joe’s renovated its main inpatient facility a few years ago, it took about four years from funding approval to completion.

He expects the PCDC financing to be approved in about a month, at which time St. Joe’s plans to close on buying the property and start designing the renovation. The plan, as of now, is for construction to begin this summer and for the facility to open before the end of this year.

Ross said St. Joe’s would buy the property from Jack Decker for $245,000. Franklin County data shows the owner as John Munn Properties Inc. and says the 0.72-acre parcel, with its 8,000-square-foot building, is assessed at $184,000.

Co-locating these three services in one new facility is unusual but would be efficient because they would share staff and facility costs, Ross said.

Once the detox and Open Access services are set up, patients’ Medicaid and insurance would pay for their operating costs, the same as with St. Joe’s long-term inpatient rehab programs, Ross said. The state, through OASAS, contributes to the cost of outpatient services, he added.

St. Joe’s is a nonprofit organization based out of the former Rumsey Cottage off Glenwood Drive, where the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement started the ministry of treating male alcoholics in 1971. It became independent from the friars in 2010, and now, with the rise of opioid drugs, 97 percent of the inpatients it treats are opioid addicts. Nearly 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, mostly through opioids such as heroin, according to federal statistics.

“The 2017 data looks like it’s gonna be worse, and the 2018 data will be worse still,” Ross said.

As a result, St. Joe’s is in expansion mode. Two years ago it took over Massena’s Rose Hill Treatment Center for adolescents, which had 14 beds. St. Joe’s added seven beds early on and is about to add seven more, Ross said.

In 2014 St. Joe’s added a program in Saranac Lake for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as addiction.

St. Joe’s also has outpatient programs in Tupper Lake, Malone, Elizabethtown, Ticonderoga, Keeseville and Saranac Lake. The organization has a $13 million annual budget.

It expects to add 12 new jobs at its new facility on John Munn Road, bringing its total employment to about 250 full-time equivalent.