Access Living Files Lawsuit to Protect Civil Rights of People in Recovery

 

January 11, 2022 | by Ashley Eisenmenger

Haymarket Center Suing Village of Itasca for Discrimination for Rejecting New Substance Use Treatment Center

 

Ashley Eisenmenger

PR Coordinator

aeisenmenger@accessliving.org

CHICAGO, Ill. – Haymarket Center, Chicago’s largest nonprofit substance use disorder treatment center, filed a federal discrimination lawsuit today seeking relief on behalf of people with substance use disorders following the Village of Itasca’s rejection of a comprehensive treatment center.

The decision to deny Haymarket Center’s zoning application, despite satisfying all zoning requirements over 35 hearings during an onerous two-year process, was “intentionally discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious, without basis, and unreasonable,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago and names as defendants the Village of Itasca, Mayor Jeffrey Pruyn, the Itasca Plan Commission, the Itasca Fire Protection District, Itasca School District No. 10, and its Superintendent Craig Benes.

Access Living – a center of service and advocacy for disabled people run and led by disabled people — takes on disability discrimination cases, and is representing Haymarket Center, with other co-counsel, because people with substance use disorder who are in recovery are protected by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The suit cites discrimination against them that began immediately after Haymarket Center filed a zoning application and the Village of Itasca misclassified it as a planned development rather than a healthcare facility.

In response to Itasca’s concerns, which largely centered around emergency medical services (EMS), Haymarket Center agreed to contract with a private ambulance company, to execute a second ambulance contract if necessary, and to meet regularly with Itasca officials about emergency services.

“The intentional and orchestrated discriminatory conduct across Itasca’s key governmental entities is designed to interfere with the rights of Haymarket Center, the people with disabilities it serves, and their families,” said Access Living Senior Attorney Mary Rosenberg. “The concerted actions to delay and refuse operation of Haymarket Center’s healthcare facility have had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences to people in need of treatment for substance use disorders.”

Rosenberg added the defendants were influenced by discriminatory community opposition, despite many who were against the project acknowledging that a tremendous need exists to help people battling substance use disorders.

While this lawsuit is a private civil action filed in federal court by Haymarket Center, a separate federal investigation by U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office is ongoing.

The proposed location for Haymarket Center’s new treatment center for substance use and mental health disorders is a former Itasca hotel, which it purchased in April 2020. The 7-acre property is located in a business park at 860 W. Irving Park Road and adjacent to Interstate 290 on the east.

“The biggest hurdle we face to addressing substance use disorders is stigma – it prevents those who need it from getting treatment, and stands in the way of making more life-saving treatment available,” said Dr. Dan Lustig, President and CEO of Haymarket Center. “Expanding immediate access to care for people with substance use disorders regardless of ability to pay has been Haymarket Center’s mission for more than 46 years. We are committed to bringing a new comprehensive treatment center to a region that faces a significant lack of treatment beds and programs while the need for these services continues to rise.”

More than 1 million people have died of a drug overdose since 1999, according to a study released two weeks ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, an estimated 100,000 people died of an overdose – a record high and 30 percent increase over the prior year. In DuPage County, where Haymarket Center proposes its treatment center, 112 people died from an overdose in 2020, a 17% increase over 2019.

Founded in 1975, Haymarket Center is the largest not-for-profit community-based adult detoxification, residential, and outpatient substance use treatment facility in Chicago. Licensed by the state of Illinois and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities, Haymarket Center annually serves more than 12,000 individuals from across Illinois. Haymarket Center’s leadership in the field of substance use disorder treatment is recognized across the region and nation.

“Haymarket Center is a quality treatment provider and I commend them for trying to increase access to comprehensive care for substance use disorders,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President & CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “Only 10% of people who meet the criteria for treatment get it. Substance use disorders are common and treatable, and having care close to home increases the chance the people who need treatment will get it.”

On July 3, 2019, Haymarket Center filed its zoning application with the Village of Itasca for Haymarket DuPage, a 240-bed substance use disorder and behavioral health treatment center that would provide the full continuum of care for adults 18 and older. Less than two weeks later, the Village of Itasca issued its first rejection to Haymarket Center when it denied the special use application for a healthcare facility and informed Haymarket Center it would have to apply as a planned development.

Despite objection to that decision and the more arduous process that resulted, Haymarket Center proceeded with a planned development application and more than 35 hearings were held before the Itasca Plan Commission between August 2019 and September 2021. During those hearings, Haymarket Center presented extensive expert testimony and reports on economic impact, public safety, land use planning, local property taxation, property valuation, and traffic engineering.

Haymarket Center also presented expert and community witnesses who spoke about the need for substance use disorder treatment, including many local families impacted by fatal overdoses.

Finally, Haymarket Center offered conditions of approval, such as contracting with a private ambulance service in perpetuity, despite EMS concerns being unwarranted based on expert testimony. Still, both the Plan Commission and the Village Board voted unanimously against Haymarket’s application on September 22, 2021, and November 2, 2021, respectively. After hundreds of hours of testimony, there was minimal discussion, no attempt to consider the conditions of approval, and each body quickly voted against allowing a new substance use treatment center.

“The ADA exists to protect all people with disabilities, whether they be visible or hidden,” said Karen Tamley, President and CEO of Access Living. “It is now more important than ever that we ensure that all people protected by the ADA can fully access treatment in their community.”

In addition to declaring the defendants violated the FHA, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act, the lawsuit seeks reasonable accommodations to allow for the opening and operations of Haymarket DuPage, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees. Haymarket Center is represented by Kenneth M. Walden and Mary Rosenberg of Access Living; Jennifer K. Soule of Soule, Bradtke & Lambert; Bridget O’Keefe of Daspin & Aument; and Mary Dickson of Bond, Dickson & Conway. The complaint can be found here.

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