Maryland Heights residents fight proposed rehab center

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KSDK) - The fight is on in Maryland Heights to keep a psychiatric and substance abuse treatment facility from opening.

That center has a famous name attached to it. A healthcare company from Florida is partnering with former baseball star Darryl Strawberry to re-open this former state-run psychiatric hospital under a new name: the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center. The former baseball star who famously battled drug addiction during his playing career is now an ordained minister living in St. Peters.

Opponents of the center bearing his name have five words: not in my backyard.

"I understand the need for such a facility. However there are many other places where it's less residential than what they're proposing," Greg Whitmore said.

Oglethorpe, a healthcare company from Florida, applied with the state to open a 44-bed psychiatric hospital in the main building. The outer buildings would be group house people getting substance abuse treatment.

"I believe that there's a possibility that outside influences may come into the neighborhood based on what this facility is going to try to do," Whitmore said.

In a letter to the state, Darryl and Tracy Strawberry say Oglethorpe wants to be an asset to the state prison system and public by acting as a court-ordered approved facility.

"My concern is basically the court-ordered division of this group of facilities," Whitmore said. "Court-ordered is indicating that there's going to be some bad people possibly to be seeking treatment."

"The residents have spoken, and I represent the residents and yes we do want them not to build that psychiatric center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation at that location," State Representative Mary Nichols said.

Rep. Nichols is working with them to make sure the people at the state level who will say yes or no to the proposal get that message.

"...And the citizens are concerned about their safety. They're concerned about the value of their property," she said.

Despite the well-documented need for these services, one woman in this meeting says she doesn't care if it's the best rehab center in the world, she doesn't want it here!

"...I wish them all the luck. However, I've been in this neighborhood for over 25 years and it's a quiet residential neighborhood. I do not believe this is the place for this type of facility," Whitmore said.

There are several other Darryl Strawberry Recovery Centers in other states. We reached out to Oglethorpe, but got no response.

We also reached out to Darryl Strawberry, he told Newschannel 5, he's "excited about the facility". He says he "knows it's a lot of push from the people in the neighborhood, but they're not trying to do something bad. They're looking forward to doing something positive for the St. Louis community".

A state board is scheduled to vote on this proposal on May 5.


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