A psychiatric hospital for North Ridge site? Oakland Park commission set to decide


UPDATE: FEB. 21 —  With anxious residents watching at city hall and at home on computers and cable television, Oakland Park has put off for two weeks a decision on whether to approve a controversial psychiatric and drug rehabilitation hospital. The reason: Wednesday night’s hearing ran too late to finish the hearing.

About 40 persons spoke for and against the project.

Resident and former Mayor Steven Arnst was critical of a letter sent to the city by a West Palm Beach lawyer for the developer instructing commissioners on their “duty” to grant Palm Partners’ application and warned that they faced a possible discrimination lawsuit if they did not. Arnst called it a “threat.”

Fort Lauderdale lawyer Wilson Atkinson, who represents another rehab facility, Fort Lauderdale Hospital, informed commissioners that Palm Partners does not have a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration license needed to operate a 300-bed psychiatric/behavioral health hospital.

Atkinson said that should the city approve the project, and Palm Partners is unable to obtain such a license, the city would be stuck with a facility that would operate under less stringent Department of Children and Families regulations for residential treatment facilities. Those facilities allow patients to freely come and go outside specific treatment hours — a nightmare scenario for residents and one that Palm Partners has said it would not allow.

The five-member city commission will pick up the quasi-judicial hearing regarding the proposal to open the North Ridge Behavioral Health Center on March 5.

By Dan Christensen, 


Revised plans for a controversial psychiatric/behavioral health hospital on the site of the old North Ridge Medical Center in Oakland Park are to be presented to the city commission Wednesday before a final up or down vote.

The changes, including additional fencing and assurances that it would not admit convicted sexual offenders to its residential treatment programs, were made to satisfy the concerns of nearby residents.

If approved, the proposal by Palm Partners LLC promises to reinvigorate a working hospital facility vacant since its purchase and closure by nonprofit Holy Cross Hospital in 2008. It would also create 300 new jobs and return the property to the tax rolls, promising “a significant increase in revenues to the city,” according to the proposal.

Today, Palm Partners operates a small, upscale drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Delray Beach. Its plan for a much larger, 300-bed facility to be known as the North Ridge Behavioral Health Center has provoked a strong negative reaction from wary residents in Oakland Park’s North Andrews Gardens neighborhood.

City Hall, located at 3650 NE 12th Avenue, is bracing for a crowd at Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. public hearing.

“We are expecting a lot of people,” said Kristen Nowicki, an Oakland Park senior planner.

Two elementary schools and a high school are in the neighborhood. Several parents said in interviews that they fear their children will not be safe.

Opposition to the psychiatric facility has also come from the Broward School Board, which recently notified the city of its concern about “spillover effects” from the proposed psychiatric facility on nearby Northeast High School.

“The district’s position is that the proposed project is incompatible with the school,” said a letter from the School Board’s growth monitoring unit.

Last month, the city’s five-member planning and zoning board unanimously recommended the commission deny Palm Partner’s application to the city for its approval. If the city commission votes no, Palm Partners, owned by company chief executive Peter A. Harrigan, would have to go to court in an attempt to make the project happen.

Palm Partners signed a contract last year to purchase the 11-acre site on North Dixie Highway, between Northeast 56th and 58th streets, from Holy Cross Hospital for an undisclosed sum.

The company has said it hopes to operate an inpatient detoxification and rehab facility that will cater to a well-heeled class of psychiatric patient. The hospital would also treat other maladies such as eating disorders and sleep apnea.

“Our facilities and services fill a significant gap in our society, providing much-needed help to those suffering with addiction and behavioral health. These illnesses are life threatening and tear families apart. Our facilities provide a foundation for recovery,” Harrigan said in a statement on Monday.

“We often hear that people know someone who needed help, including family, but were unsure what to do. Education is key and we will work with the neighboring high school and other community organizations to provide educational and outreach programs. We are here to help, and I will work hard every day to ensure this hospital is a community partner that the City of Oakland Park can be proud of,” Harrigan said.

Palm Partners has told city officials it will not accept Medicaid patients, Baker Act patients, other indigent care patients or walk-ins. All patients will pay through private insurance, third-party reimbursement or cash.

In an interview, Harrigan said most patients would stay 30-90 days. The cost of a 30-day stay would be $24,500, he said.

Harrigan has sought to assure neighbors that the hospital intends to make sure that its patients pose no threat to local residents.

“I appreciate the neighbors’ concerns and share in the need to keep our communities safe. Safety is paramount to our mission,” Harrigan said in Monday’s statement. “We have operated in Florida for 20 years and have never had a security incident involving the surrounding neighborhood.

“Our plans to invest $20 million to restore this facility, which has been vacant since 2008, will serve as a catalyst for economic growth, drawing businesses back to the area and creating thousands of jobs for the City of Oakland Park. Our investment will restore the hospital into a leading, cutting-edge facility, which will provide substantial tax revenue to the City.”


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  • I am writing this in hopes to impart another view that I feel has not been represented well within the media outlets. Palm Partners LLC, after trying to come in under the radar, is now backpedaling. They found out what they were up against after receiving a letter from the Broward County School Board and the city planning and zoning meeting. In the latest Broward Bulldog interview Palm Partners LLC now says they will reach out to the neighboring high school and other community organizations. Northeast High School is not the only school within close proximity to the proposed facility. Four other schools are within less than half a mile distance of this facility. When asked at the planning and zoning meeting if Palm Partners LLC would treat sexual deviant patients, Mr. Harrigan avoided the question three times before answering it. He now says they will not treat this type of patient. They have taken the word mental off some of the signs required to be posted, notifying the public of the city meetings.

    Mr. Harrigan of Palm Partners LLC also states that these illnesses tear families apart. Well, he will tear families apart himself in a different manner. Our neighborhood is unique in that we have an extensive family structure. Many of the families that have resided here for 25+ years will move to ensure their childrens safety. I myself have resided here for 25 years. My children attended all three levels of schooling here within walking distance. My daughter lives right next door with two of my grandchildren. What more could a grandparent ask for then to look out your window and see your grandchildren right there. My sister lives across the street with my niece and nephew. This is the fabric of our neighborhood that will be shredded. We believe this was well represented by the overwhelming attendance to the Commission hearings in regards to this proposal.

    The city of Oakland Park’s motto, A City on the Move, will take on a whole new meaning as well. The City of Oakland Park represents itself as a great place to raise children. This is why so many of us in this community have chosen Oakland Park to make our home and future for our children. How does this facility in the proposed location fit in with a City that claims to be engaged, inspired and united?

    Mr. Harrigan and his attorneys want to say we are acting out of fear and basing them on myth. Our fears are not unfounded. What they are sweeping under the rug is the truth. Nobody wants to paint a bad picture of themselves and there are two sides to every coin. Mr. Harrigan wants to liken himself to the Betty Ford clinic. USA today did an expose on rehab centers struggling to keep drugs out. A mother scraped up the money to send her child there only to find out there is drug use on the inside of the facility and had to end up moving her daughter to a different facility. A former director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of Minnesota states drug use in rehab facilities happens all the time and is historically something every treatment center has to deal with.

    We are being assured that Palm Partners LLC will not accept Medicaid/indigent care etc. I know some pretty outstanding people who have Medicaid for their insurance. Medicaid and indigent comes with a stigma. Is this an attempt to lull us into a false sense of security?

    Please look up and search Palm Partners. Read some of those reviews by former patients and tell us our fears are unfounded. The lack of security, unorganized staff, leniency, and nothing but an insurance mill (perhaps the real reason why they don’t accept Medicaid) are some of the negatives being reported by clients. Being as these are former patients, I would consider our fears to be real and not myth based.

    A & E wrote a review on Palm Partners LLC. They cater to a mostly young crowd at their Delray Beach facility. The proposed location would put a 300 bed detox/mental facility full of young, recovering addicts (or any age) a stones throw away from our high school full of peers that they can seek out. How does anyone justify this being safe or harmonious to the surrounding area?
    We are not discriminating, nor unsympathetic to people who need treatment for these illnesses. This location is just not a good fit.

    What are the plans for remodeling on the inside? All we have been told about are bus stops, a fresh coat of paint, landscaping and an additional fence. If this facility were to become a reality and is up and running HIPA laws will be in effect and Palm Partners LLC will be home free to do as they see fit. With all this backpedaling, avoiding answering questions and changing answers to the same question, quite frankly Palm Partners LLC has parted very little faith to this community as to their real intentions concerning their business plan. Their own attorney said this is their plan now, but things change. Why am I not left with a warm, fuzzy feeling? Their promise of limos and “well-heeled” clients doesn’t either. If that statement from Palm Partners LLC’s own attorney didn’t open the commission’s eyes, then I say time for a new commission.

  • CEO of Palm Partners in Delray FL is Peter Harrigan, Ph,D . He lists Chelsea University as where he received his PhD . But Chelsea University of Art and Design has never offered a PhD program in psychology. The other Chelsea University listed is a non functioning diploma mill. Is this a typo or a scandal ? He lists a BS in Electrical Engineering from 1996 and as CEO of Palm Partners in 1998. How did he get a doctorate in 2 years ?

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    Jim Twitty Dr Drew , you have sent several people to Palm Partners on your many TV shows not knowing this . I believe a few are there presently . Please do something to rectify this situation .

    March 12, 2012 at 12:38pm

  • Don’t worry the streets are good enough for people who truely need the help and the police end up having to take care of these people and it ends up to be a another to be another death.

  • There are plenty of options out there for people seeking rehab. No one is saying they should be put on the streets.

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