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NEWS Not in My Backyard

The San Diego VA is coming under fire for wanting to open a rehabilitation and care facility in Old Town. Community members, although in agreement of the facility’s importance, believe the proposed site is too close to a school.

By Margie M. Palmer SDUN Reporter

The Veterans Affairs (VA)

Healthcare System of San Diego is seeking to open a Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Program (DRRTP) facility in Old Town. Would-be neighbors of the project, however, say the location the VA has applied for is inappropriate. Proponents of the project point heavily to the need for a program that would assist veterans in inte- grating back into the community. Those in opposition say the idea of opening a DRRTP at 2121 San Diego Ave., just 22 feet away from the K-3 Old Town Academy Char- ter School, is too risky a venture because it will focus on treating veterans impacted by mild to mod- erate brain injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and pos- sible substance abuse issues. Uptown Planners Chairperson

Leo Wilson says approximately 50 to 70 Uptown and Midtown residents attended their November meeting to voice concern.

“The neighbors are concerned.

People are confused. Uptown Plan- ners really hasn’t been informed [of the proposed project],” Wilson said. “Not to mention that this is an extremely sensitive site because it’s so close to a school. There are a lot of other suitable locations.” The VA, however, says that the heightened level of anxiety is unnecessary. “Parents do not need to be

concerned about their kids,” said VA San Diego DRRTP Chief Deb- bie Dominick, LCSW, regarding this facility. “This is to be an all-day learning facility, which will have a group-based environment in which individuals could be going to community college or are enrolled in community colleges with their GI Bill money. The facility will be staffed 24-7 and there will be a curfew so people won’t be coming in and going out haphazardly.” According to the VA’s Condi- tional Use Permit application filed on Sept. 30, the DRRTP would have a total of 40 beds and approximately 26 full-time employees with “no less than three staff members any time.”

Services offered would include neu- ropsychological and mental health assessments, cognitive rehabilita- tion, evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD, medication management, occupational therapy, seizure stabi- lization maintenance and vocational and occupational assessment, among others. “People were concerned initially that this was going to be a homeless shelter but that is not the case,” Dominick said. “We are looking to treat those returning with those symptoms so the vet- eran will not become homeless.” Community members, Domi- nick said, should also be aware that the Old Town building was not the only space the VA applied for. “There is an entire bidding

process that occurs and four sites responded to our bid,” she said. “One building didn’t meet earth- quake criteria, another was too small and the third lost its ability to negotiate the lease.”

Dominick said she’s been told

that the VA is in “step three of an 11-step process” and expects to receive a final decision from San

An example of some of the physical therapy patients receive at facilities like the one proposed for Old Town. (Photo courtesy of Veterans Affairs)

Diego’s Department of Develop- ment Services in January. Still, Old Town Academy Executive Director Tom Donahue and Board of Directors Chair Chris Celentino said they question why they were not consulted prior to the VA moving forward with permit applications. “We think this is a great pro-

gram, that’s not our concern,” Do- nahue said, “but we do agree with the community that 22 feet from a school is not a good spot for it.” Celentino said he visited a similar facility in Palo Alto and is trying to arrange for more visits to learn if other DRRTPs are in close

see Center, page 19

San Diego Uptown News | Nov. 25–Dec. 8, 2011


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