Planning board voices concerns about opioid treatment center

Proposed site’s proximity to Osage school is among issues discussed

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: The Voorhees Township Planning Board continued to hear testimony regarding a proposed opioid treatment center at 200 West Somerdale Road late last month. A decision regarding the application is anticipated this month.

Late last month, the Voorhees Township Planning Board again heard testimony on a proposed opioid treatment center whose owner has applied for a site at 200 West Somerdale Road.

The meeting was the third consecutive session in which the planning board continued to hear testimony from Affinity Healthcare Group Voorhees regarding its land use application at the site. At the conclusion of the Sept. 22 meeting, the board heard comments about the site and had questions for Affinity.

According to program sponsor Ronald Martin, Affinity has testified that its peak hours for patient visits and dispensing of medication would be from 5 to 9:30 a.m. Affinity anticipates an average of 275 patients per day, but testified the facility would be able to handle as many as 600, if needed.

Board member Jason Ravitz again questioned how many people per day Affinity  anticipates at the facility, and Martin said Affinity’s  numbers may be an overestimate. He cited one of its facilities in Virginia that offered a similar estimate but currently has one-third of that number.

“This is the reason I don’t estimate and I don’t guess,” Martin said. “Our Franklin, Virginia, facility … was estimated to have approximately 250 to 500 patients.  The patient count of that facility to this day is 73; that’s why we don’t guess.”

Ravitz said he’s not familiar with the Franklin, Virginia location, but that a municipality such as Voorhees with more than 30,000 residents would possibly raise those estimates, especially since New Jersey is the densest state in the country. Residents of Cherry Hill, Camden and other Camden County municipalities would likely visit the facility. 

Another topic of intense debate on the proposed center was Solicitor Stuart Platt’s reminder to Affinity representatives that the site is approximately a half-mile away from Osage Elementary School. But Martin said he did not believe the proximity of the proposed treatment center to the school was relevant to the application.

“We knew that the school was there and we determined that it was not going to be an issue,” he noted. “Our patients have not demonstrated that they pose any risk to children.”

Martin added that he does not understand the relevance of the site’s proximity to the school unless Platt was “trying to say that [Affinity’s] population is predisposed to crime … or that every one of our patients is going to try to rob an elementary school or kidnap someone.”

Platt immediately shot down those accusations, saying he simply asked if Affinity had explored the issue.

“I think that it’s going to be a very, very important question for the public to determine if in fact there is any impact by having a methadone, outpatient clinic within a half-mile from a school,” he said.

The board will meet again Wednesday, Oct. 14, for further public comment before an anticipated decision regarding the application.