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Richmond Approves Addiction Treatment Center Expansion Study

skyline of richmond
The study would look at the effects of allowing treatment centers anywhere medical and dental offices can already open up. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Richmond City Council approved a study on Monday that could expand where substance abuse treatment centers are allowed to operate. 

The study, proposed by 5th District City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, would look at the effects of allowing treatment centers anywhere medical and dental offices can already open up. Under current zoning law, treatment centers are classified as social services, limiting the areas where they can operate. 

Lynch said the current law all but requires substance abuse treatment centers to get a special permit to open.

“It’s almost like exclusionary zoning,” Lynch said. “You have to go through the special permitting process for these things. Why? To keep them distant from residential areas and neighborhoods that might not want them in close proximity.”

The resolution passed Richmond City Council on a 7-2 vote, with Councilwomen Kim Gray and Reva Trammell voting against. 

While it would only trigger a study into the issue, Gray said she opposed the resolution because it was a step toward greatly expanding where addiction treatment centers could locate.

Gray, who said she has family members battling addiction, wanted more public input before initiating a study.

“This is something I think, in concept, sounds like a good idea, but we are talking about something that will affect 23 areas in this city,” she said. 

Lynch said she proposed studying a change in zoning law after Metro Treatment of Virginia was denied a permit to open a facility off at 449 E. Belt Boulevard back in November. 

Metro Treatment of Virginia had applied for a permit, claiming it qualified as a medical clinic. The Richmond Department of Planning and Development Review denied the permit, according to city documents. The company appealed the decision in March, but was unsuccessful. 

Metro Treatment of Virginia did not respond to a request for comment. 

Since 2013, drug overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental death in Richmond and the state as a whole.

Severely limiting where treatment centers can operate, Lynch said, could prevent them from locating near the greatest need.

 

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