CRANBURY: Application for drug rehab facility withdrawn

By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Managing Editor
Alpha Healing Center has withdrawn its application for a use variance from before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“We don’t have any information on why they withdrew,” Mayor James “Jay” Taylor said. “We were just notified that they would like to withdraw the application at this time. They can resubmit the application at a later date.”
As the application can be resubmitted, the governing body cannot comment on the withdrawal, according to the mayor.
Alpha Healing Center representatives had an application before the Zoning Board of Adjustment that proposed the adaptation of the existing 87-room hotel (Staybridge Suites) at 1272 South River Road into a privately owned inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. The for-profit facility would have been licensed by the state of New Jersey after the conversion of the ground floor into common space. The facility would have had a commercial kitchen, dining room, administrative office, recreation facilities, etc. The facility would have had around 36 full-time employees during regular business hours and about 20 after hours including security staff.
Patients would have been there on a voluntary basis and they would have had limited access to the outdoors. The environment would have been heavily controlled by security. Daily schedules would have included therapy, training, meals and activities. Medical detoxification and a dispensary would have been available. Visiting hours would have been limited.
During the last Zoning Board meeting, expert witness Gerard Figurelli, a licensed psychologist, said the facility would not be a criminal justice referral facility or a methadone treatment facility. He said it would not treat sex offenders, adolescents, pregnant women, women with children or patients with Medicare or Medicaid. He said patients would have commercial insurance or the ability to pay themselves, with an average income of $120,000-$150,000 per year. He said patients would most likely be employed, married and between 24-50 years old.
In trying to establish the need for such a facility in Middlesex County, Dr. Figurelli quoted statistics from the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System. He said Middlesex County ranks the fourth highest county in the state for drug overdoses, has the fifth highest number of residents admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities in the state and has the third highest unmet inpatient facility need in the state of New Jersey.
A few Zoning Board members said Dr. Figurelli did not make the case for establishing the inpatient facility in the county. They asked Dr. Figurelli to provide additional statistics from Mercer, Monmouth and Somerset counties. The board also asked for the demographics of those who need inpatient care for substance abuse and co-occurring psychiatric disorders in Middlesex County. A member of the public also asked Dr. Figurelli to regionalize the data and to talk about the need for such a facility in Cranbury at the next meeting. 