Recovery Centers of America (RCA) has filed suit in New Jersey state and federal courts against the Gloucester, N.J. planning board for a number of claims originating from the illegal denial of RCA approvals for the development of a new treatment center.
“The board’s behavior was nothing short of outrageous and discriminatory, a flagrant violation of both the Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA),” said Brian O’Neill, founder and chief executive officer of Recovery Centers of America, in a statement. “We were told both publicly and privately that the denial had nothing to do with the renovations but rather it was a politically-based decision to deny patients receipt of treatment at this location, which is a direct and clear attack to both Fair Housing and the ADA. This issue is much greater than simply 'NIMBYism.' Last year alone, 1,310 New Jersey families lost loved ones to heroin, cocaine, and prescription drug-related deaths. Those voices did not show up in opposition.”
Among the claims, the suit alleges that township officials violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by excluding and denying services to local residents suffering from disabilities, including alcohol and drug addiction. The suits center on Gloucester’s unexpected August denial of a By-Right, minor site plan for interior renovations on the property.
The denial came after RCA had proactively approached the zoning board in March 2015 and after two months of public hearings, received an interpretation that the location was permitted for use by a residential treatment facility. That interpretation was later affirmed by the township’s own paid consultant, Ken Lechner, who in July, testified that the project complies with all use, density, and bulk requirements and is a By-Right Application.
However, in August, when RCA appeared before the board for approval to begin minor renovations to the property, they were denied by a six-to-one vote. This was after the board heard testimony from local residents who, rather than addressing the minor site plan request, attacked the facility and its residents, who are a protected class under state and federal law.
Deni Carise, RCA's clinical executive, told Behavioral Healthcare previously that she was personally threatened by individuals involved in some of the areas where RCA is seeking to develop treatment centers.