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Applicant of medical detox facility sued 3 times prior to proposing facility in Stuart

Firm representing Jason Ackner is expected to address concerns to commissioners at meeting
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 19:02:46-04

STUART, Fla. — As a medical detox facility proposed for Stuart heads to a highly anticipated city council discussion, WPTV has uncovered court documents showing the project's applicant was sued three times over rent issues involving facilities he previously leased.

Jason Ackner, CEO of Behavioral Health Centers based in Port St. Lucie, is asking Stuart city commissioners to change the land use designation where the old Clarity Pointe assisted living facility was located from mixed-use to commercial.

According to city documents, Ackner wants to turn the now vacant building, located near the intersection of Southeast Indian Street and Kanner Highway, into a 140-bed, out-of-network, substance abuse and mental health medical detox facility.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder is opposed to the 140-bed proposed sober house April 26 2024.png
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder is opposed to the 140-bed proposed sober house saying it will be "vagrants" from out of state to the area.

In March, Ackner presented to the city's Local Planning Agencyand told board members half of the patients at his facilities are typically Florida residents, while the other 50% come from across the country.

LPA board members failed to recommend the facility in a 2-2 vote, and after delaying a vote on the land use designationchange in April, Stuart city commissioners heard public comment regarding the project Monday evening.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told WPTV he planned to be at the meeting to voice his opposition to the project, worrying an inpatient, 140-bed facility drawing people from across the country would burden his agency and the taxpayers of Martin County.

According to the National Institute of Health and theKaiser Family Foundation, a 140-bed facility is more than three times the size of a typical substance abuse recovery facility.

Nurse practitioner Valerie Ferrara April 26 2024.png
Nurse practitioner Valerie Ferrara says people can leave a treatment facility freely and many times end up on the street.

Palm City Nurse Practitioner Valerie Ferrara, who specializes in detox and recovery, also voiced concern about what would happen if patients who come from across the country run out of insurance coverage and end up on the streets.

"The taxpayers are going to subsidize this business model because when the patients fail out, the money at home dries up," she said.

"They will end up in my jail, they will end up in your Publix," Snyder said on May 10.

"And with a facility three times the norm, that’s three times the amount of people leaving the facility," said Ferrara told WPTV on April 26.

Now, WPTV has uncovered complaints filed in Palm Beach County court which show prior to proposing this, Ackner had been sued three other times over rent at similar facilities.

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In 2017, Peanut Island Enterprises served Ackner an eviction notice and sued him for damages, claiming he stopped paying rent on the facility he was leasing for his Changing Tides Transitional Living facility.

A judge ruled in the landlord's favor, issuing the eviction notice and holding Ackner liable for damages.

In 2018, South Florida Property Ventures sued Ackner and his Unity Recovery Center for damages alleging he abandoned the property and stopped paying rent. Court documents showed a judge ordered Ackner to pay more than $250,000 in damages, which Ackner is appealing.

In 2019, Peanut Island Enterprises again sued Ackner for damages, alleging he stopped paying rent and didn’t maintain the property he was leasing for his My 5 Kids treatment center. Both parties reached a settlement.

John Nelson He's struggled with addiction before getting clean and launching his nonprofit Families Recover
John Nelson of nonprofit Families Recover says there's plenty of facilities in the area and they are not full to capacity.

I reached out to Ackner but he declined to comment.

However, in the March Local Planning Agency meeting, he told board members his troubles were due to COVID. The lawsuits were all filed prior to 2020.

To find the story behind the facts, I talked to John Nelson.

He's struggled with addiction before getting clean and launching his nonprofit Families Recover.

"You have your own experience with drug addiction," I said.


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"Absolutely. Absolutely," Nelson said.

"Is another substance abuse, detox facility here in Stuart needed?" I asked.

"No," he said. "The ones that are here are not even full."

Again, Ackner is declining to comment further on this. However, the firm representing him is expected to address these concerns to commissioners.

As a reminder, commissioners aren't voting to approve the facility. For now, they're voting on whether or not to change the lot's land use designation.