SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 12, 2012

Clinic must close nightly

SALEM — A Salem board has ruled that a mental health clinic on Mason Street cannot continue to run as a 24-hour-a-day operation.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously last week to uphold a cease-and-desist order issued by the city’s building inspector to Northeast Behavioral Health Corp., which operates the clinic at 41 Mason St.

Building Inspector Tom St. Pierre ordered the clinic to close by 6 p.m. each day after a neighbor complained that it is violating city zoning laws by staying open all night.

Mason Street resident Joseph White, the neighbor who complained, called the Zoning Board’s ruling “a great decision for us.”

“We’ve been dealing with a lot of problems with the facility,” White said. “It’s been getting progressively worse.”

The clinic, called the Community Crisis Stabilization Program, provides emergency psychiatric services for adults 18 and over, including six beds for overnight stays that average three to five days. It has been operating out of the Mason Street site since 2007.

Marshall Handly, a lawyer representing Northeast Behavioral Health, said the organization plans to appeal the Zoning Board’s decision. Handly said the clinic is exempt from restrictions regarding hours of operation under the Dover Amendment, a state law that limits the effect of local zoning regulations on nonprofit institutions.

Handly said the clinic serves a “critical” purpose and should be allowed to operate 24 hours per day. It’s where police bring people who are having mental health or substance abuse problems but do not need to be institutionalized, he said.

“They need to have their behaviors identified and corrected or they could head into a place where they become a community problem,” Handly said.

St. Pierre said the clinic will be allowed to stay open around the clock until a potential appeal is resolved.

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