Community 'heads up' on drug-abuse clinic plans sought in Pa.
January 30, 2013By Taunya English
Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin Boyle says homeowners and businesses should get a "heads up" when a substance-abuse clinic plans to move into the neighborhood.
Boyle and fellow Democratic lawmakers from across Pennsylvania held a hearing on the issue in Northeast Philadelphia Wednesday.
Boyle said the Frankford area "might have more treatment centers per capita" than any place in the United States. He is pushing for tighter regulations.
A clinic operator "with no experience" made a "secretive attempt" to move into the 172nd District in 2011, Boyle said. Many neighbors complained.
"Specifically, this methadone-treatment facility would bring anywhere from 500 to 750 into the heart of Mayfair daily with only four parking spots," Boyle said.
Patti Vaughn, who lives in the Holmesburg neighborhood just 20 feet from the proposed site, said she worried her neighborhood would become a staging area for addicts lining up for medication and counseling.
"Congregating on our small street, sitting on our porches," Vaughn said. "I'll probably be confronting them on a daily basis because I'm not going to accept that. I'm a taxpayer, I worked hard, I bought my home, I've worked hard my whole life. It's not fair to me."
Philadelphia resident Jose DeLeon, who has struggled with a heroin addiction for 22 years, has another perspective on the issue.
"I did nine and half years in state prison," DeLeon said. "I've tried numerous detoxes, rehabs, outpatient facilities -- nothing worked at all."
Nothing worked, DeLeon says, until he tried methadone treatment.
Methadone has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths in recent years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But it also has a long track record of helping patients fight illicit drug addiction.
During the Wednesday hearing, lawmakers took great pains to make it clear they want to make sure substance abusers have a place to get well.
"What they don't finish off saying is ... not in our neighborhoods," DeLeon said.
Philadelphia Police Department Capt. John McCloskey testified that he's worked in neighborhoods where he's had to make frequent drug arrests outside treatment centers, and he said patients have become a nuisance to residents.
Even industrial area location spurs protest
Several speakers said methadone clinics should be located in commercial or warehouse districts away from residential areas.
"That was the solution in our minds, too," said Terrence McSherry, president of NorthEast Treatment Centers. NET is pursuing a new location on State Road in an industrial area. The proposed site is on a bus route, near Interstate 95 and has adequate parking, McSherry said – and still a local civic group opposes the plan.
DeLeon, who now works as a recovery specialist for a center located in the 2200 block of Bridge Street between Tacony Street and Aramingo Avenue, says he understands that residents are initially fearful when a new clinic moves in.
His center, though, has proved to be a good neighbor and initial misperceptions have waned, he said. Volunteers from the center give back to the community by providing regular neighborhood cleanup, he said, and the center holds information sessions about its programs.
Boyle reintroduced legislation this week in Harrisburg that would require treatment programs to notify elected officials, community groups and officials when they plan to open a new location.