FAIRFIELD — A hearing to discuss whether Newport Academy should be issued the certificate of need required to open two mental health residential facilities in Greenfield Hils drew impassioned speakers.

The more than 200 people that filled the seats and lined the walls were at some points unruly during the 5 hour hearing. There were several times when Micheala Mitchell, the Office of Health Strategy’s staff attorney and public health hearing officer, had to tell those in attendance to restrain themselves.

According to Certificate of Need filings with the state, Newport Academy plans to open two six-bed treatment facilities at 3236 Congress St. and 2495 Redding Rd., which they purchased in January for $3 million and $2 million, respectively. The facilities are intended to treat 18- to 26-year-old patients.

These facilities would be affiliated with an already existing 53-bed Newport Academy location for 14- to 20-year-olds in Bethlehem, Conn., as well as an operating outpatient center in Darien. According the filings, the Fairfield program intends to accommodate the Bethlehem site’s waitlist.

The plan has been controversial, with creating the Neighbors for Neighborhood Preservation, Inc., a 501(c) organization with over 700 members in its Facebook group.

The organization argues that Newport Academy’s description of its facilities as group homes is a mischaracterization that allows them to inappropriate special housing protections. Group homes, the Neighbors says, should house permanent residents, not rotating patients.

In September, the Neighbors took a blow when the Zoning Board of Appeals denied their appeal to halt the process based on zoning laws. That matter is now being appealed in the state courts.

Mitchell made it clear that the OHS had no authority over zoning issues and could only evaluate if Newport establishes a need for the facilities, it’s cost effectiveness and whether it grants equal access.

Newport Academy brought in former patients to testify about the effectiveness of its treatment curriculum.

Chloe Levi, who said she had struggled with depression and anxiety, said she considered suicide every day before she went to Newport. She said the treatment she received at Newport Academy saved her life.

There were several similar stories from former patients who testified about the ways Newport Academy helped them.

When it came their turn to speak, members of Neighbors for Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. focused on how the cost to patients, on average more than $50,000, was prohibitive to members of the public of ill means. They also pointed to other treatment facilities in the area, saying there was not a need for more treatment centers.

Look for an updated version of this story at https://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/.