ATLANTIC CITY - Gov. Christie is getting robust political traction - nearly six million views on Facebook at last count - with an impassioned speech recorded from Shooter's Tavern in Belmont, N.H., about treating drug addiction.
But back in New Jersey, an Atlantic City inpatient treatment center that accounts for 10 percent of the state's long-term recovery beds has said it will close this spring - in part because the state's reimbursement rates are too low to sustain a move out of the tourism zone Christie set up.
Alan Oberman, executive director of the John Brooks Recovery Center, said the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority had also backed off a plan to fully finance the construction of a new 119-bed facility and that he has been unable to secure construction loans.
The CRDA is buying the Brooks building on Pacific Avenue - long considered an awkward eyesore in the heart of the tourism zone, with people lined up for outpatient methadone treatments - for $4.1 million, and is spending $4 million to relocate outpatient facilities.
But the fate of the long-term facility is in doubt.
"It's the failure of the state to come through with the rates and help us out," Oberman said this week. "We represent 10 percent of the long-term beds in the whole state, and the only long-term residential in South Jersey."
Meanwhile, a well-known de facto Atlantic City day program for the homeless and addicted - the public Brown's Park, where a video of a young man knocking out a homeless woman also went viral recently on Facebook - is to be sealed off for a makeover, further complicating the resort's relationship with the many people who arrive seeking services.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts, said Thursday that the state was in the process of a comprehensive "rate review," but could not give a time frame for an increase in the $68-a-bed daily rate that providers get for contracting with the state to take patients from drug court and other placements.
Roberts said the state had tried to find a solution for Brooks and was trying to prevent its closing. Oberman said he was several million dollars short of what he needs to build a facility on land under contract in a Hamilton Township industrial park.
Oberman sounded his alarm in a news release this week, which Roberts said was the first the state had heard of an April 1 closing.
Roberts issued a lengthy reply by email - the issue clearly is getting attention as Christie presses his addiction message in campaign appearances. He said the governor's office would reach out to the CRDA to make sure the center could remain past April 1.
Roberts said a 40-bed facility in South Jersey would open soon, though he would not give further details.
"If he decides to close, it will be his decision to close, as a business decision," Roberts said. "We stand ready to work with them. If you're not having success locating long-term, you don't have to leave on April 1."
CRDA spokeswoman Elaine Zamansky said the contract, executed in July, gave Brooks nine months to find financing and 30 months to build a new center before it has have to move.
"They need to find financing to purchase a new one," Zamansky said. "We are giving them a fairly substantial amount of time to do that."
Oberman said he had arranged to relocate outpatient clinics to two spots: one in town but far from the Boardwalk, a block or so from Brown's Park, the other in a Pleasantville shopping center.
Oberman said he was open to discussions with the state to save the long-term beds.
"I don't know if there's a solution," he said. "I would love for there to be a happy ending. Gov. Christie could have his winner's hands up in the air."
In Brown's Park, named for Army Tech. Sgt. Harold R. Brown - the first African American resident of Atlantic City to die in World War II - the new reality was drawing near. The city plans to fence off the park in the coming weeks to build new landscaping, playground equipment, and a band shell.
The park has long been a magnet for the addicted, alcoholics, and the homeless, drawn to the city for services like the Brooks recovery center.
This week, some acknowledged their presence was problematic - one called himself an eyesore - as many walk from the nearby Rescue Mission, and alcohol and drug use is a daily activity under the trees.
Others wondered whether changes would address underlying issues. "If you take away the park, where are the alcoholics going to go?" asked Carlos Torres.
"Better for who?" said Robert Callendar, 88, part of a group of older men who go to Brown's Park to talk, reminisce, and debate political philosophy. Many come every day to the spot bordered by Bacharach and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards and Kentucky and Baltic Avenues, across from the Stanley Holmes public housing project.
"Why all of a sudden are they talking about closing it down?" said Callendar. "When they had Indians, they had reservations, now they have segregation and isolation. That's all you see out here - poverty."
The park's notoriety increased in recent weeks, when the Facebook video showed a man knocking out a woman inside the park. The man, Ibn Hunter, 25, was later arrested.
Deputy Police Chief William Mazur said the violent attack was a rare occurrence in the park, which nonetheless is treated as a hot spot. He denied that the city had historically tolerated drug and alcohol activity in the park, turning it into a kind of "Hamsterdam" free zone as portrayed on the HBO series The Wire.
On a recent weekday, Police Officer Emmanuel Antoine and his partner walked through the park, checked on a man passed out, and continued their rounds.
Mazur said the city hopes to make the park hospitable to children, families, and the students at the Atlantic Cape Community College campus across Kentucky Avenue. Students now rarely venture in. The city plans to install cameras to be used by police as a "force multiplier."
On Tuesday, just one parent brought a child, 23-month-old King Brown, to ride around on a toy electric all-terrain vehicle. "It's the drunk people, they don't bother anybody," said his mother, Lisa.
Mazur said the park had "never gone off our radar."
"Here's the reality: You have to deal with the geography of it," he said, "sandwiched between the Rescue Mission, the John Brooks Recovery Center. We're sensitive to the fact that people have civil liberties and they can go into a park."
State Sen. Jim Whelan, who has tried to mediate a solution for the long-term beds, said the Brooks situation was frustrating, exacerbated by resistance in communities that has resulted in having to split the services into three future facilities.
"Most people acknowledge downtown Atlantic City is not the ideal place for that," Whelan said. "And yet, when you try to get the necessary funding, nobody's prepared to cover the costs."