Friday, May 12, 2006

T&G: Walgreens may also force out treatment center

We've known for a couple of weeks that one of Leominster's most historic restaurants is scheduled to be razed to make way for a Walgreens. Today, the Telegram and Gazette (which has been ahead of the Sentinel every step of the way on this story) reports that a residential drug and mental health treatment center will also be razed to make way for the national chain:
Drugstore plan may push out treatment center
Leominster program officials await word from landlord


LEOMINSTER--If a developer's bid to build a Walgreens pharmacy on Central Street is approved by the city, a landmark downtown eatery won't be the only casualty.

The potential loss of Monty's Garden Restaurant has garnered much attention, with the owners saying they will relocate if their building is sold.

But the occupants of the neighboring New Dimensions Residential Program still don't know what their future holds.

"We've heard nothing," program director Wayne Rushlow said this week. "I've got 32 guys in here and the majority of them don't have anyplace to go."

New Dimensions has operated in rented space at 49-51 Central St. for three years, and was in place under different management and a different name at the same location for seven years before that, Mr. Rushlow said.

"We're really proud of our program," he said, noting the privately funded center is rare in that it provides treatment for dual diagnoses of substance abuse and mental health issues.


Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella has said the [Walgreens] would be beneficial to the downtown corridor, not only because of the traffic improvements but because there hasn't been a drugstore downtown in years.

Mr. Rushlow said his program also fills community needs, hosting daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that are open to the public.

"It is a viable program we provide and guys need it," he said.

Mr. Mazzarella, who said New Dimensions has operated with a fairly low profile in its downtown berth, said a handful of such agencies are operating in the city.

If Mr. Rushlow's program moves within the city, Mr. Mazzarella said, an important element in a successful transition will be to have a dialogue with their prospective neighbors.

"The key is working with the neighbors and getting an idea of what you can expect," Mr. Mazzarella said yesterday. "If you set certain expectations and fail to live by them, that's when you have problems."
It doesn't sound like the mayor cares much that the treatment facility might close. Is the mayor suggesting that New Dimensions has failed to live up to expectations in the three years at the site?

Will the mayor hold Walgreens to the same standard? "If you set certain expectations and fail to live by them--" say by sickening children by selling expired baby formula--would that be "when you have problems?"

Since Leominster apparently has the reputation as a "walking community" (that was one of the reasons Walgreens needed to be downtown), it seems like it would be important that a residential treatment center stay downtown, where residents can easily access other services.

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