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

ESSEX - Local organic farmer and philanthropist Sandy Lewis said Friday that the cost of his proposed addiction treatment facility wouldn't be shouldered by local taxpayers - and it could serve as a model program to train social workers and rehab center managers in effective rehabilitation techniques.

Lewis hosted a trip of county officials to Mendham, N.J., May 20 to visit the Daytop adolescent substance abuse rehabilitation center, to which he has contributed substantially. The trip was sponsored to show the officials the benefits of such a facility, for both its clients and its host community. Those who took the trip said they were impressed with the Daytop program and how it was apparently changing teenager's lives dramatically.

Until this week, Lewis had not directly addressed the question of financing the proposed facility, which has left county officials guessing. Friday, he made his intentions known in a phone call to Denton Publications.

"County finances are not involved here," he said. "We don't want county involvement, we just want their support."

Lewis cited Daytop Mendham's finances as a model that could be followed. Daytop Chief Financial Officer Jordana Zeger said Thursday that a combination of state and federal grants and private donations and corporate endowments launched the Mendham facility.

The annual operating expenses, which she estimated to be about $4.5 million per year, also draws on a variety of sources, she said. Most of the sum is spent on local payroll.

The Daytop residential facility is authorized to accommodate 70 teenagers, and there's a waiting list, Daytop Executive Director James Curtin said. The current population includes 58 residential students and 12 in day school. Curtin said no clients are admitted to the program that are either overtly violent, and no sexual offenders are accommodated - fears common to host communities.

Daytop officials said their center was well accepted in Mendham, one of the nation's seven most affluent communities. An average three-bedroom home in Mendham, they said, is worth $1 million.

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