An addiction recovery center operator is interested in possibly buying the former hospital to open a residential and outpatient treatment center in Wrangell.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based Regard Recovery Centers planned to send a representative, Casey Odell, to the Wrangell Borough Assembly’s Tuesday meeting this week to introduce the organization, discuss its interest in the former Wrangell Medical Center property, and to schedule a time in the coming weeks for a follow-up visit to Wrangell, Amber Al-Haddad, capital facilities director, reported to the assembly for the meeting.
Regard Recovery on Sept. 22 sent a letter of interest to the borough. The borough has had “subsequent communications with Regard Recovery Centers, who have expressed continued interest in the property. Borough staff are working to provide the interested party with requested information,” Al-Haddad reported.
Regard Recovery operates two facilities in Florida, is opening one in West Virginia, and has outpatient services in Pennsylvania, according to its website.
Brett McGinnis, chief operating officer at Regard Recovery Centers, said Monday he received an email from someone in the commercial real estate business about the unused, former Wrangell Medical Center, and that the borough was looking at what to do with it.
“We have interest in bringing high-quality treatment to the entire country,” McGinnis said. “There was no specific thing where we were like, ‘We should go to Alaska.’ We look at real estate pieces that make sense.”
McGinnis said he entered the residential treatment industry because it made business sense at the time five years ago, but since then he’s seen how critical the need is for substance and opioid recovery treatment. “I didn’t have a reason to get into it before, but everything I’ve seen tells me we need this,” McGinnis said. “There isn’t a community that hasn’t been affected by it. It’s certainly become a passion project for me now.”
McGinnis said it’s too early to discuss a specific number of jobs a treatment center could create in Wrangell. ”With any of our opportunities, we look to employ local, and at the end of the day, we provide job opportunities.”
The company’s existing recovery centers offer opioid addiction treatment, individual and group counseling, outpatient programs, detox and sober-living homes.
Regard Recovery Centers’ interest in the hospital was listed for discussion only at Tuesday’s assembly meeting.
The interest in the site is one possible second chance at life for the former hospital, which has been unused since SEARHC moved operations to its new medical center at the start of the year.
The borough assembly has discussed the costs and options of using the old hospital property as a permanent or temporary home for the government agencies currently housed in the public safety building, which needs millions of dollars of work for repair and rehab from rot and other deterioration over its 34 years.
Public safety building tenants include the fire and police departments, state court system, U.S. Customs Service and other agencies.
The assembly was scheduled Tuesday to further discuss options for the public safety building, which the borough owns.
According to recommendations from Anchorage-based AMC Engineers and Juneau-based Northwind Architects, it would be expensive to remodel the former hospital to accommodate the court house and jail, “likely as much and maybe more than the cost to renovate” the public safety building.
”Of the various tenants proposed to be relocated to a repurposed WMC (hospital) building, these two different occupancy types, according to building and fire codes, would require the level of design and construction as if constructing them as a separate, new building,” the joint recommendation said.