First responders rally for proposed Ga. mental health recovery center
Some living in the area where the Valor Station is planned to be built have strongly opposed having the substance abuse and PTSD recovery center in the community
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Mark Brown spent 39 years as a paramedic and knows the toll the profession has on first responders. That's why he supports Valor Station, a proposed recovery center for first responders burdened by substance abuse, post-traumatic stress or other issues.
"We saw some god-awful things that would make normal people run and hide," he said.
Brown gathered with other first responders and community members Saturday in front of the Municipal Building to show their support for firefighters, EMS and police.
The zoning for the recovery center was approved Monday by the Planning Commission and must be passed by the Augusta Commission. However, some members of the Green Meadows subdivision, where the facility would be located, strongly oppose the center. They plan to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday at the Green Meadows Drive entrance prior to the commission vote on the zoning Tuesday.
Jeff Breedlove from the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, who was at Saturday's rally, questioned why commissioners would vote against Valor Station. A vote against it would send a message to drug dealers and gangs that Augusta is "open season" for drugs, he said.
"First responders save our lives," he said. "Every time the people of Georgia call our first responders, they answer that call. The very least the people of Georgia and the people of Richmond County can do for first responders is to be here for us when they need us the most."
Richmond County Board of Education District 6 representative A.K. Hasan released a statement Saturday in support of the subdivision, calling Valor Station "Hell House" and saying it is a danger to the neighborhood and the Career Vocational Magnet School.
"Each of the Hell House's patients are a drug addict that has a history of personal abuse and reckless endangerment," the statement said. "Which means self-control is a real problem for them. The Hell House's patients cannot be trusted to adhere to the rules of confinement established by the Hale Foundation. The patients pose a risk to students and the neighborhood."
Hasan said many of the patients' visitors will be their likely enablers and heighten the likelihood that illegal drug activities at the center will then be in the school and neighborhood. He also said that with the rise in COVID-19 cases, it would be poor judgment to bring people into the county with "a documented history of violating the rules of personal control and public safety."
Andy Carrier, a licensed mental health clinician formerly with the Georgia State Patrol, said people want to "vilify" addiction but that it can affect people from all walks of life.
"There's not one person here who hasn't suffered from situational depression," he said. "Sometimes you get through it and sometimes you don't and it leads to something else. You're going to find that form of relief somehow."
©2020 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)