McLean Hospital received state approval last week to operate an eight-bed residential substance-abuse rehabilitation center at the former Fox Hill estate on upper Bayview Street in Camden.

"The Maine Department of Health and Human Services informed us right before Thanksgiving that they have successfully completed their review process and will issue a license to operate," said Philip Levendusky, senior vice president at McLean Hospital, the oldest psychiatric hospital in New England. McLean, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, operates nine adult residential facilities and five child and adolescent residential facilities in New England.

McLean is in the process of interviewing and making job offers to new staff, said Levendusky. Staff training will follow before services are advertised, he said.

"We recruited locally and almost everyone who applied for these positions is from the midcoast area, including senior staff," said Levendusky. Job offers will begin to go out to selected candidates this week and next, he said.

Contracts for local services are already well under way, with vendors primarily from Camden, Rockport and Rockland, said Levendusky.

The Fox Hill facility, which will serve a maximum of eight wealthy patients who are able to pay in the range of $1,800 a day out of their own pockets for a 28-day program, drew strong opposition from neighbors and others in the Camden community when it was first proposed as a 12-bed facility. Twelve beds would have required a change in zoning, so the developers, Fox Hill Real Estate, and McLean Hospital opted to reduce the number of residents to fit within existing allowable zoning. Neighbors sued, arguing that the facility was a hospital rather than a residence. Fox Hill is expected to open in January or February, according to Levendusky.