June 2 – After years of stonewalling unhappy neighbors under prior management, the new President and CEO of the Providence Center Dale K. Klatzker, Ph.D, has turned a new leaf by committing to work with residents until they are happy that the Center is their neighbor. Neighbors and SNA representiatives first met Dr. Klatzker and his staff on May 19. Last night the first in a series of problem-solving took place at the Catalpa Street home of SNA board member Dennis DeVona.

For many years, the Providence Center on Hope Street at Cypress Avenue has been an extremely poor institutional neighbor in its predominently residential setting. Under a prior director, Center was dismissive and hostile to complaints about common institutional nuisances such as building and operational noise, excessive lighting and blocked driveways and streets. The Center’s clients, who suffer from behavioral disorders and mental illness, have sometimes trespassed on surrounding properties and even confronted neighbors with bizarre or threatening behavior. Over seven years, recurring complaints were either disregarded, disputed or put off with commitments that were rarely met.

On May 19, Dennis DeVona who lives across the street from the Center and who is on the SNA Board, arranged a meeting withProvidence Center CEO Dale K. Klatzker, Ph.D, who took over at the Center late last year, and members of his staff. Rep. Gordon Fox sat in on the meeting as did Norman Orendecker, a friend of Dennis’ who helped to mediate and frame the discussion. Two neighbors and SNA President Jon Howard also took part.

Dr. Klatzer and his staff listened carefully to a list of 20 resident concerns presented in a petition signed by 30 residents. He said “Whatever happened before, I am here now. The Providence Center wants to be a good neighbor. We want you to be happy we are in the neighborhood.”

After some discussion, Dr. Klatzer agreed to ensure that deliveries did not occur between 8PM and 8AM and to take steps to resolve parking-related impacts on neighbors. Most importantly, the Center agreed to meet with neighbors on a regular basis to deal with the list of issues one at a time.

Last night (June 2) the first problem-solving meeting took place. Dennis DeVona, representing residents on behalf of SNA, made this favorable report:

“We had what I consider to be a breakthrough meeting with the Providence Center last night and I’m greatly encouraged for the first time in 7 years. Grant Dulgarian (another SNA board member) came by and helped jump start the meeting, …the SNA presence was greatly appreciated. He really got us focused on the root causes of the parking overflow, and some other issues.

“The new CEO of the Providence Center, Dale K. Klatzer, Ph.D., pretty much showed us there is a “new sherrif in town”, and that the old CEO (with his horrible standards of institutional behavior) …was gone. The Dr. Klatzer seemed very concerned about neighbor relations. To that end one of the obnoxious vendors who confronted me on the street a couple of weeks ago and said “we’re going to drive you out of the neighborhood” ….was already fired, and all the others were sent a warning letter. The CEO also sent out a clear set of rules to all employees to let them know there will be real consequences if they abuse the neighborhood in any way.

“The NARCANON meetings that have been plaguing us, ….you know, the ones that released drug addicts at all stages of recovery directly into our neighborhoods late at night, ….they’re being moved to one of the Providence Center’s more commercial locations. Adult counseling was moved to other locations (about a year ago) and that lessens the confrontation potential, too. There should be less dangerous people coming to our neighborhood. Dr. Klatzer made a fairly impressive number of observations and actions that they claim they’re taking. We live in hope that this attitude remains.

“I hope it’s an example of how to effectively change the neighborhood struggle against institutional or commercial abusers. First, I think you’ve got to get the attention of top leadership. Lower level staff won’t have authority to fix problems and may not even care. Getting that attention requires getting people like Rep. Fox and the Summit Neighborhood Association engaged.

“Then you’ve got to present a laundry list of issues, and get everything that’s agreed on in writing. That way, if a good CEO is replaced with someone new who takes neighborhood issues as a personal affront, you won’t be recycled into a huge struggle. If the neighborhood establishes a good relationship with an honorable leader of an Institution, there’s no limit as to the problems they can make go away. But if they’ve got a CEO who doesn’t care, there’s no end to the misery an institution can impose on your lives.

“So that’s one model. I don’t know if it’s as good as it looks folks, but we live in hope. I’ll keep you posted if the atmosphere changes. Jon and Grant were both great! Thanks.
Regards, Dennis”

P.S.If you have a problem with the Providence Center, do three things:
1. Call the office of President and CEO Dale Klatzer, Ph.D. to report the problem at 528-0131.
2. Call or email Dennis DeVona and let him know what you have asked the Center to do. Phone: 521-2158 – e-mail endocraft1@aol.com
3. Keep a record of your call, noting the date, the complaint and any response you get.