By MIKE WILLIAMS
Despite a recommendation for approval by the town’s Planning Commission, Pulaski Town Council on Tuesday rejected Savida Health’s request for a Special Exception to zoning rules to allow for their outpatient counseling practice.
Savida Health’s application to the town indicated that the facility – planned for 1042 East Main Street in Pulaski – would be an “outpatient appointment-based medical and counseling practice that treats opioid and alcohol addiction.”
An executive for Savida Health, Sylvia White, said the facility would see only 50 to 56 patients per day, all from the Pulaski County area.
She noted the provider has similar facilities in Southwest Virginia including in Wytheville, Abingdon, Claypool Hill, Honaker, Lebanon, Big Stone Gap, Blacksburg and Clintwood with more planned in Buchanan County, Bristol and Coeburn. She said their clientele had grown in Southwest Virginia from 100 clients to around 1,200.
She said the facility would not dispense or keep medication on site and would be staffed by one medical provider and two counselors.
Clients would come from social services and drug courts referrals or by those seeking assistance on their own.
During a public hearing on the Savida request, one resident spoke in favor or approving the request, saying Pulaski is “overwhelmed with drugs.”
A second citizen, Sunshine Cope, said while the Savida program “sounds wonderful,” the county’s transient population “is huge,” noting one drug treatment facility in Pulaski now draws in a lot of people from outside the area.
Cope wondered how many drug and alcohol treatment facilities would eventually be in the town, noting the recent debate over the Mainspring facility that had been seeking permission to establish a drug treatment facility beside LewisGale Hospital Pulaski.
“It’s not that I don’t want people to get help. I mean I do, I see it. But there is also a cost to the residents,” Cope said.
Councilman Greg East agreed with Cope.
“The fact of the matter is we do have to consider the residents of this town. Bottom line is those are the people who make this town work. I live two blocks from the municipal building. I walk the streets every night, and I have for almost 10 years now. There has been a significant increase in the transient population in this town.
“In my opinion, that’s the main thing we need to consider – the taxpaying citizens of this town,” East said.
East said Cope raised a valid question on how many treatment facilities did the town need.
“Granted, their missions are different, it doesn’t change the fact that they attract people that have issues. I’m all about helping everybody we can, but at the same time we have an obligation to the people of this community,” East said.
Councilman Michael Reis offered a motion to approve the Special Exception to allow for Savida Health’s facility. However, it failed on a 3-2 vote with Councilmen East, Brooks Dawson and Jamie Radcliffe voting in opposition. Reis and Councilman Jeremy Clark voted in favor.