The myriad reasons for Wheaton residents packing the city's planning and zoning board meeting to object to a proposed substance abuse treatment center boil down to one key argument: Yes, they say, the center is needed, but they believe it's in the wrong place.
The proposed facility at the heart of the controversy would be located in a vacant Wheaton medical office and be run by the Haymarket Center, a nonprofit that operates a 400-bed complex in Chicago with both inpatient and outpatient care.
On one hand, residents who object to facilities like this one always believe they are in the wrong place -- and want them moved to another neighborhood, another part of town, another county, another state. They instinctively fear for their property values. They fear who will be coming into their neighborhood.
On the other hand, the hard evidence shows that people recovering from substance abuse fare better closer to home. The reasons are self-evident ... their support systems are here, their jobs are here, their lives are here.
How does a community reconcile the real, outspoken fears of the neighborhood against the needs of some of its most vulnerable citizens?
Primarily, by separating fact from fear. And one fact is that the Haymarket facility will serve DuPage County residents.
Drug and alcohol addiction is evident in every strata of American society -- the wealthy, the middle class and those mired in poverty all suffer from the terrible toll it extracts. No segment of society escapes. For example, through mid-December DuPage County recorded 81 confirmed opioid overdose deaths, up from 79 in 2016.
What this tells us is that addicts aren't "them." They are us. They are our families -- good families, hardworking families -- who have terrifying problems. No one should be made to feel isolated in their own community, or worse, unwanted.
Wheaton must judge the proposal on the available facts. The questions -- what effect do institutions like Haymarket have on their surroundings, and do residents have a demonstrable reason to fear the clients? -- should be answered with information.
Moreover, both sides in this debate should be looking for a way to coexist. Addiction is a fact of life in DuPage County, therefore treatment must be a fact of life there too. Reject Haymarket on the facts, or accept it on the facts. When fear rules, nobody wins.