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Utah's Steps Recovery: NIMBY Bedevils Affordable Care Expansion
Written by Ted Jackson   
September 2013

Mike Jorgensen is a church going man; and in Utah that means as often as not, of course, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or better known as the Mormon Church based in Salt Lake City. As Jorgensen explained patiently to the unordained here at Treatment Magazine, it is impossible to reach the highest levels of service within the Mormon Church if one drinks and drugs. That's how heavily within the church's strictures such activity is frowned upon. So, one would think that in Utah, where more Mormons roam than anyplace else, that the sight of a new addiction center going up would be a welcome one indeed.

Forget About It

Well you can forget about it. As CEO and founder of Steps Recovery, a 40-bed, $4M-a-yr treatment center near Provo in a town called Payson, Jorgensen is involved up to his neck in NIMBY as he tries to expand his operation by opening another center about 200 miles south in a suburb of St. George, a place called Bloomington that practically straddles the Arizona border and is also a hop-and-skip from Nevada. Jorgensen has purchased a large former estate in Bloomington and needs permissions for more than 8-beds there as well as for the expansion and renovation of the property. If he can get past the 150 people or so - a big crowd in that sparsely populated part of the country -who don't want Steps Recovery around in the St. George suburb, his operation will expand substantially in residential beds and revenues and hopefully fast growing outpatient. Steps Recovery also provides ambulatory detox and transitional living in Payson.

Utah Market

Much of Utah's treatment activity has historically been youth and wilderness oriented and exclusively cash-pay and typically very expensive. And post financial crisis, as the luxury Malibu Model has increasingly gone national, Utah has become even more of an addictions hub, with many centers opening that are not youth oriented therapeutic schools but are pretty much straight up addictions centers whose programs are aimed at a more wide demographic variety.

Youth Market

Steps Recovery itself, indeed like many centers because substance abuse is far more prevalent in the young, although that's changing fast, has clientele that is quite youthful. And he seems to be tapping into a market with strong demand for affordable services. There is big competition and many new players near Payson, but much less of that to the south. "There is no question that we are seeing very good demand at our affordable price point and that's why we bought the new property andwant to expand," says Jorgensen. The obvious need for his services in the community has not seemed to make a dent in the quite virulent NIMBY reaction by local residents

against the planned new Steps Recovery operation in the Southwest corner of the state. The neighborhood is littered with the anti-treatment center signage that has become a staple in the treatment NIMBY battles that are increasingly popping up in all areas of the country as prisons empty and addiction treatment expands.

Determined

Despite the substantial opposition and NIMBY sentiment surrounding his expansion into the estate property in loomington, Jorgensen, whose brother runs a sex addiction clinic near the founding Steps Recovery property, remains determined to forge ahead with his plans. "I wanted 24 beds but needed a variance for that. We don't need one for 8 beds, so that's where we'll start." TJ

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