Higher Ground cleared to open counseling center

Posted Jan. 12, 2010, at 8:34 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — City planners approved the site plan for Higher Ground Services, a new outpatient counseling center on Center Street, during a special meeting on Monday, but also placed limits on the type of services allowed and prohibited certain patients from using the center.

Planners prohibited the owners of 235 Center St. from providing methadone and other opiate treatments, and barred clients who are pedophiles, have a history of violent behavior or are ordered into treatment by the court system, city planner Linda Johns said Tuesday.

“There was a condition on limiting the type of uses for the facility,” she said. “They also prohibited some uses.”

The applicants asked for planners to approve an outpatient counseling center, which was approved, but not before the definition was narrowed, Johns said.

“Because that’s such a broad topic, they limited the type of counseling to life coaching, mental health counseling, trauma counseling, substance abuse and dual diagnosis,” she said.

The only type of court-ordered counseling that will be allowed is Driver Education Evaluations and Treatment Program, or DEEP, classes for those with driving infractions.

The operators of Higher Ground may not dispense drugs of any sort, and must provide state and federal license certifications for the center and the counselors employed, Johns said. Planners also placed a caveat on the approved site plan that states if there are any future change in operations, the owners must return to the plan-ning board for another public hearing and site plan.

Several residents and parents who use a day care across the street from the site, which was purchased last summer for the counseling center, raised concerns about safety and the clientele last month during a public hearing held to discuss the proposal.

Those against the proposed Higher Ground Services said at last month’s meeting that they are not opposed to the center opening, but they don’t want it across the street from a day care center and one block away from Brewer Middle School and State Street School.

Those same residents returned this month and watched as the plan went through the site plan review process, Johns said.

Jim LaPierre, Joe Bowen and Jon Lounsberry, created limited liability corporation JCUBED and purchased the old VFW hall. Since purchasing the building in August, the men and their wives have worked to renovate 4,800 square feet of the front portion of the building into seven counseling offices, and fixed up an apartment upstairs.

The plan is for JCUBED to lease the space to Higher Ground.

LaPierre, who is a counselor, said last month that the center would not treat those under the influence of any intoxicants, sexual offenders, those in methadone treatment or clients who have been ordered by the courts into treatment.

At that meeting, the planning board tabled the issue for the second consecutive month to confer with the city’s attorney about issues raised during the two meetings.

During the meeting, the board also approved a Cigaret Shopper for 460 Wilson St., which will sell cigarettes, cigars and beverages.

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