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Lewis: Proposed teen rehab center could be a model for others

Lewis' preferred site for the proposed treatment center is the former Essex County Home. Located in Whallonsburg, the sprawling brick building is owned by the Leaveners Community Foundation, a non-profit Kansas-based organization which is seeking to develop a respite center for health and humanitarian workers.

Foundation President Erik Kilgren said Monday night that the group plans to continue their development effort.

"We have no plans at this time to sell the Whallonsburg property," he said.

But Lewis said this week that he might be facilitating an offer that would be difficult to refuse - or he might locate the treatment center elsewhere.

The fact that the old County Home property is adjacent to his farming operation has made it the prime location for the proposed facility, he said, noting that clients of the center could work on his farm and gain new skills and experiences becoming close to nature.

The old property includes the "North Farm" and "South Farm" land - totaling about 1,100 acres. These two land parcels which now exclude the old County Home grounds, are owned by Robert Thall. These two plots are together assessed at more than $650,000.

Lewis also said this week that the proposed facility could be a training center for prospective or existing employees of rehabilitation centers nationwide.

These adult students, he indicated, could learn the Daytop principles that county officials witnessed firsthand on May 20 - social workers and teachers reaching out to former addicts in a non-judgmental way, creating structure in the teenagers' lives, engendering attitudes of caring and mutual respect, while heightening the youths' emotional sensitivity and self-awareness.

"The issue is, does our community want to save children's lives up here in upstate New York?" Lewis asked.

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