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At a time when the opioid crisis continues to grow, the La Crosse area is blessed to have an agency that provides hope for those who make the courageous decision to overcome their drug and alcohol addiction.

For nearly 50 years, the Coulee Council on Addictions has helped thousands of our friends and neighbors find help in the face of addiction, serving as a bridge between addiction and recovery for both individuals in need and their family members who want to provide support.

Last year alone, the council had 30,000 interactions with guests and clients, responded to nearly 500 crisis calls, and provided nearly 200 assessments for drug and alcohol abuse. It provides outreach to schools and hosts 50 support group meetings monthly.

But its home for nearly 40 years on West Avenue in La Crosse simply doesn’t meet the growing need. It’s a century-old, two-story facility that doesn’t provide adequate access or parking.

Despite those limitations, the council has provided a safe, substance-free environment for those seeking long-term recovery. And, it has been a good neighbor, bringing very few complaints to police — and many of those have been complaints about parking challenges.

Its status as a good neighbor is important to know as the council wants to develop a new home — the Coulee Recovery Center — on land provided through the generosity of Mayo Clinic Health System for $1 a year for 25 years, with 10-year renewable agreements after that.

The council has raised nearly $2.4 million of its $2.9 million goal to build a new home, and it needs and deserves rezoning approval from the La Crosse Common Council to build a new Coulee Recovery Center.

The 13,000-square-foot facility at 921 Ferry St. would more than double the space the council now has to serve the community. The new location also would provide more parking, a central location on a bus route and a new home that is not close to the temptation of a tavern — an important allowance for many in recovery.

As often happens when there are questions about a new neighbor, there has been plenty of misinformation that has clouded this discussion.

So, let’s review what the council doesn’t do.

  • It does not provide inpatient or residential services.
  • It does not provide court-ordered services. In other words, the people who are there want to be there because they want help.
  • It does not pass out needles or methadone.
  • The Coulee Council on Addictions has provided exemplary service to the community and served as a good neighbor for a half-century, and the need for help with recovery has never been greater.

During the meetings that council representatives have hosted since announcing the new center, it’s clear the Coulee Recover Center wants to be a part of the Washburn Neighborhood, not merely located there. There also has been positive dialog with staff and parents from Lincoln Middle School, and council officials have taken pains to modify their plans for how the building will be situated on the lot, natural barriers for privacy and more to answer neighborhood concerns.

While most everyone agrees that the Coulee Council on Addictions does important work in our community, this ultimately is a rezoning request. The Coulee Council on Addictions is asking the city to rezone property that has been on the Mayo Clinic Health System campus for nearly 20 years — property that likely would never have become residential. It’s also important to note that rezoning would make the use consistent with surrounding properties, which include the Mayo Washburn Gardens, Washburn Corner, Mayo Gerrard Hall and the Women’s Recovery House, the Hillview Vermiculture Center and the Enactus Gardens.

Those facilities are all considered public/semi-public uses — and the land closest to the neighbors is already zoned public/semi-public.

When you look at the roster of Coulee Council board members and staff, you see respected, community-minded people who understand the need for help with recovery. Some have been motivated to serve because their families have been touched by addiction and the need for recovery. Others are in recovery themselves.

The Coulee Council has a stellar track record of serving those in need of help fighting addiction.

This project deserves support from the Common Council to continue its vital work of assisting recovery.


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