Approved short-term residential mental health treatment facility for young people in Norwich

20 March 2024 15:53 ​​Last update: 20 March 2024 20:00

The nonprofit Community Health Resources received approval Tuesday to convert this former child care and medical office building, shown Wednesday, March 21, 2024, into a residential short-term treatment facility of 10 beds for young people aged 5 to 18. Claire Bessette/The Day . Buy photo reprints

Norwich A former child care center and medical office building on Fanning Avenue will soon become the states second short-term residential facility for up to 10 young people recovering from mental health and behavioral crises.

The City Plan Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a plan by the nonprofit Community Health Resources to renovate the vacant one-story building at 78 Fanning Ave. in a 10-room subacute crisis stabilization program for up to 10 5-year-olds. at 18

The building, owned by Waterford Country School, is listed as a nursery in the city’s property records.

Norwich’s plan still needs a license from the state Department of Children and Families, which will be sought after renewals, said Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources. CHR hopes to complete interior renovations and obtain the state license to open this fall, Gates said.

CHR officials said the program would serve youth discharged from hospital emergency rooms and in need of short-term stabilization programs for mental or behavioral health crises. The only similar facility is in Hartford. The Norwich facility will serve up to five children ages 5 to 12 in one area, and up to 10 older children, ages 13 to 18, or up to 21 if the youth is in DCF care.

Youth would stay at the facility for one to 14 days and be supervised by trained staff 24 hours a day. During the night, a minimum of three counselors would be on duty. During the day, the facility would be staffed by licensed therapists, nursing and psychiatric staff, said Jennifer Nadeau, CHR’s senior vice president of child and family services.

Treatment would include individual care and family therapy, with the child’s parents on hand. Nadeau said all residents would be supervised 24/7, including time spent outside on the small grassy area, where a picnic table or chairs could be set up. No playgrounds or active recreation equipment are planned.

All internships at the facility would be voluntary.

The goal is to stabilize them and return them to their parents, Nadeau said.

During a public hearing Tuesday, neighbors Carla and Douglas Church of 71 Fanning Ave. they strongly opposed the placement of the facilities in their neighborhood. Carla Church said the couple has lived there for 18 years and said the facility was not appropriate for the neighborhood and would hurt property values.

If you accept this, I will move out of this town, said Carla Church. This is an atrocity. There has to be another place.

Another neighbor, Thomas DiStasio of 57 Fanning Ave., said he is a retired employee of several state inpatient mental health hospitals in the state, including Norwich Hospital in Preston, Connecticut Valley Hospital and Whiting Forensic Middletown Hospital and in group homes.

DiStasio said his main concern was ensuring Norwich facilities were adequately staffed for youth. DiStasio also asked if there would be outdoor recreation for young residents.

This population is very difficult to treat, DiStasio said. You have to have a lot of patience and experience with them. You have to be creative and think outside the box.

Gates said no outdoor recreation structures, such as playgrounds, are planned. If CHR wants to add them, the group would have to go back to the commission for approval.

Commission members said the proposed use fits with surrounding uses, which include medical offices and Backus Hospital. The commission required CHR to install a 6-foot-tall fence on Zepher Street.

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