LARGO, Fla. — A new drug detox center is opening soon in Largo at 405 7th Avenue SW in the middle of a residential neighborhood. While the detox center promises to be a solution to the growing opioid problem in our community, some neighbors are worried it will draw the wrong crowd to their quiet streets.
Les Yancey has lived along 4th Avenue SW for more than 17 years, a neighborhood he chose to be closer to his in-laws.
"It's a great neighborhood. We love it, but a drug detox center does not belong smack in the middle of the neighborhood," Yancey explained.
The new Clean Life Drug Detox Center is just feet from Yancey’s mailbox across 4th Avenue SW.
"We are right across the street. I mean it’s not like this is their neighborhood, this is our neighborhood," he added.
Yancey says he and his neighbors didn’t have any warning, and never imagined the abandoned assisted living facility across the street would turn into a drug rehab center. “There was absolutely no notification. We all figured it would one day re-open as a center to care for the elderly," he elaborated.
Clean Life bills itself as a one-of-a kind detox center, catering to working professionals and first responders who are hooked on opioids and alcohol. With one person dying of an opioid epidemic every 43 hours in Pinellas County, pharmacist Shady Messiah says it’s much needed.
“I don’t think our community is offering enough solutions. We talk a lot about the problem without offering a solution. We will be that solution for the Tampa Bay area,” he added.
Messiah promises the facility will be safe with 24 hour surveillance, cameras inside and out, and a large staff to patient ratio. "We promise to be good community partners," he elaborated.
A recent ABC Action News I-Team investigation uncovered drug detox centers face scarce regulations. Inspections by state agencies are even voluntary. Drug detox or sober homes often bring in big money from disability checks and insurance. Several have opened or plan to open in neighborhoods across Tampa Bay.
Yancey says, “it’s an invasion in my neighborhood.”
Yet, his neighbor Kim Basham doesn’t see it that way. She says Florida’s opioid problem is shocking and the more help we can get, the better.
“It’s gotta open somewhere, you gotta have it in some neighborhood," Basham explained. She also says the Clean Life building looks nice and is much more welcoming in the neighborhood than the abandoned building that sat empty for years.
The Clean Life Center already has a two week waiting list and plans to open to patients on May 1.