Fort Myers council to vote on rehab center settlement

FORT MYERS, Fla. — City Council will decide next week whether to approve a $149,000 settlement over charges the city discriminated against an addiction and mental health treatment facility.

The city fined Sovereign Health, citing violations of zoning law. City leaders and nearby homeowners have spoken out against the facility on Riverside Drive since August 2014, complaining they don’t want a “drug rehab” in the area.

The facility took the city to federal court, prompting the council to propose the settlement in exchange for dropping the discrimination charges.

The settlement would allow Sovereign to remain open as a residential care facility. It “will fulfill an important need for housing to the disabled population,” settlement documents state.

But there are some conditions.

The city wants the facility to increase security and will only allow it to treat patients for mental illness — not addiction.

Sovereign Health argues mental illness and addiction go hand-in-hand.

“I think that it’s been our experience here, that it’s hard to have one without the other, so I’m quite confident that through the attorneys and the city, they’ll come to some kind of resolution,” Program Director Jennifer Feriola said.

The city’s payout is $99,000 to settle all claims and another $50,000 to pay for improvements, including security cameras, gate improvements and better lighting.

The City Attorney’s Office couldn’t be reached for comment.

Reporter:Nicole Valdes
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