23/05/2024

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Oakridge Treatment Center withdraws its appeal to restore Olmsted County licenses – Post Bulletin

Oakridge Treatment Center withdraws its appeal to restore Olmsted County licenses – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — The organization that runs Oakridge Treatment Center in northeast Rochester dropped its appeal against Olmsted County’s revocation of its food and lodging licenses.

Lewis Zeidner, the newly named CEO of New Brighton, Minnesota-based Meridian Behavioral Health, said on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, that Oakridge, a men’s only substance use disorder and mental health treatment facility, is unlikely to reopen.

“We will continue to serve communities in which we’re welcome,” Zeidner said. “My impression is a piece of what’s happening in Olmsted County is ‘not in my backyard’ concerns about having people with addiction being treated in the community.”

Zeidner said there is a “disproportionate, punitive nature to the way we’ve been treated” by Olmsted County, in comparison to other SUD treatment facilities, regarding the nonfatal overdoses at Oakridge and instances of clients leaving the rural facility on foot.

“People sometimes use while they’re in treatment, leave treatment or don’t leave treatment,” Zeidner said. “That’s not unique to Oakridge, that’s not unique to Meridian Behavioral Health; that is a factor of this disease that we treat. So, an expectation that no one will leave treatment, an expectation that we’ll never see an overdose, is unrealistic.”

Olmsted County Public Health Services and the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office were not immediately available for comment.

In October 2023, the Olmsted County Public Health Services Advisory Board

declared Oakridge a public health nuisance

due to what county officials called a pattern of concerning incidents including overdoses, several corrective actions ordered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and hundreds of calls for police or ambulance service since Oakridge opened in 2017.

Before the declaration, Florida-based Ascension Recovery Services had

partnered with Meridian

to improve operations throughout the company. Then, on Nov. 22, Olmsted County

revoked Oakridge’s lodging and food licenses,

and the facility had to move its remaining clients to other treatment centers.

“The continued failure to mitigate these concerns jeopardizes the health and safety of the vulnerable adults served by the facility and Olmsted County’s community members,” said Capt. Tim Parkin, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, in a statement when the licenses were revoked.

Meridian followed up by

appealing those revocations

and making “several adjustments in Meridian Behavioral Health leadership,” said Brandon George, Ascension’s vice president who stepped in as Meridian’s interim CEO, in late November 2023.

ZeiderLew-4

Lewis Zeidner, CEO of Meridian Behavioral Health.

Contributed / Meridian Behavioral Health

On Jan. 17, the Haverhill Township Board of Supervisors passed a resolution “to request … that Olmsted County not restore the License of the Facility to operate a treatment facility in Haverhill Township.” Board Chairman Steve Pollack told the Post Bulletin that the vote was unanimous.

In its letter withdrawing the appeal, Meridian said it believes “leaders of Olmsted County and Haverhill Township are failing to acknowledge and recognize the root of the issues identified” in the township’s resolution, county license revocations and public health nuisance declaration.

“The unfortunate reality is that while everyone would like an easy solution and wants affected individuals to receive treatment for substance use disorder, few people are accepting of a treatment facility in their neighborhood,” the letter reads. “Acknowledging there are areas that Meridian could have managed more effectively at the Oakridge facility, Meridian strongly disagrees with many of the broad brush conclusions raised in the Notices and Resolution related to Oakridge.”

Zeidner said he is “saddened” that the county will lose a treatment center.

“There’s a need for treatment, and treatment may not be pretty, but treatment is important,” Zeidner said. “And we know that treatment works.”

At the state level, Oakridge’s DHS license is still in “pending reopening” status. Zeidner said DHS has been conducting an investigation on Oakridge, and though the report has not yet been published, Zeidner said the concerns in the DHS report are “much less significant than the ones that the county cited.”

“I think, at the end of the day, there was nothing in there that would reflect the need to close a facility or even restrict the facility from operating,” Zeidner said.