The Truth About Drug Treatment Centers

A petition against the NuWay drug treatment center.

The executive director of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization believes “people in [addiction] recovery tend to bring about drug dealers.” This idea went completely unchallenged in a City Pages article about the NuWay Counseling Center which recently opened at 2118 Blaisdell Ave. It’s a sentiment that’s been repeated often over the years when the issue of “too many treatment centers” in Whittier comes up.

I’m sure this idea feels true to many people. Most people reading the article will nod and go on assuming that it is true. But is it actually true that drug treatment centers are crime magnets? I can find no evidence that this is true (I tried hard). Instead, there are two studies saying treatment centers do not cause an increase in crime:

There’s an important lesson here: when a man on the street, especially someone with a neighborhood organization, tells you why a thing is about to destroy the neighborhood, always do some extra journalism.

It’s unfortunate this idea went unchallenged in the article, because last year City Pages was good enough to print a response from NuWay’s executive director addressing the Whittier Alliance crime concerns:

That’s a really interesting theory. That’s a closely held opinion of the Whittier Alliance, but there’s just no evidence. Center City is not a hotbed for drug dealers because Hazelden is out there. Anybody who knows anything about recovery knows that’s really not true.

Here’s another true thing that wasn’t mentioned, but deserves to be: people living in transitional housing while undergoing treatment for addiction are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The City of Minneapolis is legally barred from denying them equal access to housing. So even though Minneapolis has a spacing requirement intended to keep drug treatment centers geographically dispersed, federal law says that’s not okay. Because of this, most cities have done way with spacing requirements. Minneapolis has maintained the requirement, but doesn’t enforce it.

Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment transcript

I understand the impulse to want to choose your neighbors. I hate noise and criminals and people who are terrible. Even though I’m personally very good at pre-judging who the terrible people are, most of society is very bad at it. We can’t choose our neighbors, and we shouldn’t be able to. We should protect our homes and neighborhoods with laws against crimes, not laws restricting where certain people live because they belong to a group we wrongly anticipate will destroy the neighborhood.