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Lake View Terrace Site Being Considered for Nancy Reagan Center

April 22, 1988|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

The closed Lake View Medical Center is being considered as the site of the proposed Nancy Reagan Center for the treatment of teen-age drug abusers, representatives of a drug abuse service agency said Thursday.

But whether the First Lady will have better luck than the proponent of an ill-fated plan in 1986 to convert the former hospital near Eldridge Avenue and Terra Bella Street into a juvenile detention center is unclear.

The 1986 proposal was dropped after it ran into strong neighborhood opposition. Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who represents the area, and Lewis Snow, president of the Lake View Terrace Home Owners Assn., said they did not know enough about the proposed drug treatment center to take a position.

Representatives of Phoenix House, which proposes to operate the center, will discuss the proposal at a community meeting in Lake View Terrace Wednesday night, Snow said.

"We have to make sure our concerns regarding additional traffic and the possibility of additional crime are addressed," he said.

City approval is required for the proposal, said David Mays, an aide to Bernardi.

Lake View Medical Center, formerly Pacoima Memorial Lutheran Hospital, opened in 1960. Plagued by financial problems, the 145-bed facility closed in March, 1986. Since then, the former hospital frequently has been rented out for filming hospital scenes for television shows.

George Mihlsten, a Phoenix House representative, said Thursday he wants to discuss the proposal first with representatives of the community before he releases details.

"What is critical for us is to sit down and talk with the community groups so that we are able to work through the issues that are going to be of concern," he said. Mihlsten, an attorney, is regarded as one of City Hall's most effective lobbyists.

Representatives of Phoenix House said that no final decision has been made on a site. They are looking at other sites in the Los Angeles area, they said, but declined to identify them.

Phoenix House, the nation's largest private, nonprofit drug abuse service agency, would spend $9 million to buy and convert the hospital into a live-in treatment center for 150 drug abusers, ages 13 to 18. Phoenix House operates six drug-treatment centers in New York and four in California, including one on Los Angeles' Westside.

In announcing plans for the center last March, Mrs. Reagan said the facility would be "built around a residential high school for adolescents in treatment. In addition to treatment for drug dependency, the school will provide an accelerated academic program that offers students the chance to reclaim opportunities for higher education and careers that have been lost to drugs.

"The center, as it develops, will include a research unit and training institute, and it is expected that prevention, intervention and other clinical programs will be added. The center will provide a model treatment program. Its research unit will work on developing new approaches to treatment and prevention and intervention as well. Its training institute will teach what is learned at the center to drug abuse workers from throughout the country."

Mrs. Reagan's involvement "will make their battle and their attempts to be accepted by the surrounding neighborhood much easier," Snow said referring to Phoenix House representatives.

"People will assume if she is involved, it must be high class," he said.

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