The Turning Point Center of Addison County is looking for a new home. The peer-to-peer recovery center's lease at its current location is not being renewed and the center can't find a new location that fits with Middlebury's zoning regulations.
Bill Brim, executive director of the Turning Point Center of Addison County, points to a zoning map of Middlebury, and the areas where the center could relocate. Many clients walk or take the bus, so he wants to stay downtown. But finding an affordable location to rent or buy has been challenging.
“We’re a big part of this community. We have people that will sign in — we have an anonymous sign-in list — and in a month’s period ... about 700 to 1,000 people sign in, another third don’t. That’s visitors coming here to work on their recovery,” Brim said.
The center is a safe place for adults working on recovery from addiction. It offers meetings for AA, NA, Al-Anon and Making Recovery Easier groups, and activities like drum and art classes. While it provides one-on-one peer coaching, there are no licensed counselors.
So when the center tried to buy a building on Route 7, Brim was surprised to find that the Development Review Board considered the center a social service agency.
“I said, 'So you’re designating what we are?' I said, 'That’s not correct.' I’m very upset with the way the town handled this and now we don’t know where we’re going,” he said.
Middlebury Director of Zoning Jennifer Murray said the Turning Point Center fits the town's definition of social service, and could not move to the new building.
“The DRB decided what was proposed for the Turning Point Center would fall in that classification. At the hearing Bill said they would have counseling, group meetings and possibly transition services. It’s nothing we decided arbitrarily. It’s zoning that’s been in place for some time,” she explained.
Brim says while the center would someday consider strictly-controlled transitional housing for people coming out of a treatment center, that wasn't part of the current plan.
The center lost money and time pursuing the Route 7 property and has until August to find a space that works for the non-profit's small budget.
Brim says Addison County needs wrap-around services to help people addicted to heroin. And that includes mental health providers, doctors who will prescribe treatments -- and the Turning Point Center, where people struggling with addiction can help each other.
The one clinic in the county that does provide medical treatment currently has 37 people on the waiting list, and some have been on it since September. Brim says those people, along with the people already in treatment, need peer support from the Turning Point Center to work on their recovery.