Battle looms over planned methadone clinic

Milt Mar­telack protests in front of a soon-to-be built meth­adone clin­ic on the 7900 block of Frank­ford Ave on Thursday, Ju­ly 14. Kev­in Cook/for the Times

As op­pos­i­tion mounts in May­fair and Holmes­burg to a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic at 7900-04 Frank­ford Ave., there are plenty of un­answered ques­tions.

“Who the hell is Heal­ing Way?” asked Fred Moore, pres­id­ent of the Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Heal­ing Way is the name of the agency that wants to op­er­ate the clin­ic, which would be on the corner of Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street.

Moore thinks the agency se­lec­ted the site be­cause of its con­veni­ence to pub­lic trans­port­a­tion. The store­front prop­erty in­cludes RE/MAX East­ern and 11 apart­ments on the second floor. The North Star Elec­tric Sup­ply Co. is around the corner, on Dec­atur Street.

The prop­erty is zoned C-2, which al­lows for com­mer­cial activ­ity such as a med­ic­al of­fice as long as there are no overnight stays. It’s the former home of the Last Call bar, which has been shut down since a 2008 shoot­ing out­side the es­tab­lish­ment.

Carl Primavera, a zon­ing at­tor­ney with the Cen­ter City law firm Klehr Har­ris­on Har­vey Bran­zburg, ex­plained that his of­fice was re­tained by Heal­ing Way to ob­tain per­mits from the city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions on Jan. 11 for a 4,830-square-foot med­ic­al of­fice.

Primavera does not handle health-care leg­al is­sues, so the per­mits could have been for an eye doc­tor, chiro­pract­or or dent­ist, for all he knew, he said.

But word star­ted to spread that the med­ic­al of­fice would be dis­pens­ing meth­adone, which is used to wean people off drugs, usu­ally in a power­ful li­quid form.

Patti Vaughn, who lives on the 3600 block of Dec­atur St., said she has seen med­ic­ated people on the Mar­ket-Frank­ford El as she travels to work in Cen­ter City. Vaughn does not want to see a meth­adone clin­ic at the end of her block.

“Young chil­dren and older people will be walk­ing back and forth with that cli­en­tele,” she said. “It’s not the right loc­a­tion for it.”

Fur­ther­more, Vaughn fears that cli­ents will sell meth­adone doses, if they are in tab­let form, when they leave the of­fice.

“Drug deal­ers will be at­trac­ted to the clin­ic,” she said.

Domen­ick Par­ris agrees. He owns $8 Buck Cuts, a barber­shop at 7912 Frank­ford Ave. Drug deal­ers will try to “lure them back in­to the fold,” he be­lieves. He’ll move his busi­ness if the clin­ic opens.

“We couldn’t co-ex­ist there. It would draw a bad cli­en­tele,” he said.

Vaughn con­tac­ted the of­fice of City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski. The coun­cil­wo­man op­poses the clin­ic be­cause she wor­ries that cli­ents will con­greg­ate out­side. She also noted the site’s prox­im­ity to schools, churches, res­id­ences, a pub­lic lib­rary and day-care cen­ters.

“We don’t need this,” said Kra­jew­ski, who lives on nearby Shelmire Av­en­ue.

She said she will try to se­cure a law­yer for clin­ic op­pon­ents, in case the is­sue goes to court. In the mean­time, she has called for a hear­ing in front of the city Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment to get an­swers from Heal­ing Way.

No mat­ter the out­come of the Aug. 31 hear­ing, Heal­ing Way is ex­pec­ted to main­tain its per­mits.

“It’s in the state’s hands,” Kra­jew­ski said.

The state De­part­ment of Health in­dic­ated that Heal­ing Way must meet sev­er­al re­quire­ments, and that an open­ing was not im­min­ent. Press sec­ret­ary Christine Cronkright is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment:

“Any fa­cil­ity that wishes to op­er­ate a meth­adone clin­ic, con­cur­rent with the state ap­plic­a­tion pro­cess, must con­tact the fed­er­al Drug En­force­ment Agency (DEA) and the fed­er­al Cen­ter for Sub­stance Ab­use Treat­ment (CSAT), a com­pon­ent of the fed­er­al Sub­stance Ab­use and Men­tal Health Ser­vice Agency (SAM­HSA). This will sat­is­fy the fed­er­al re­quire­ments con­cern­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of a Nar­cot­ic Treat­ment Pro­gram.

“Once the ap­plic­ant has com­pleted the pre-sur­vey pro­cess, then the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Health’s Di­vi­sion of Drug and Al­co­hol Pro­gram Li­cen­sure will co­ordin­ate an ini­tial on-site in­spec­tion with the DEA and fi­nal­ize the pro­cess with the fed­er­al Cen­ter for Sub­stance Ab­use Treat­ment (CSAT),” the state­ment con­tin­ued. “An ap­plic­ant has to ob­tain ap­prov­al from the com­mon­wealth and both fed­er­al agen­cies be­fore they can be au­thor­ized to be­gin provid­ing ser­vices.”

State Reps. Kev­in Boyle and Mike McGee­han are work­ing on the is­sue. The pro­posed clin­ic is in Boyle’s dis­trict and across the street from McGee­han’s.

Boyle has writ­ten a let­ter to Gov. Tom Corbett and is seek­ing a meet­ing with Dr. Eli Avila, sec­ret­ary of the state health de­part­ment. The law­maker be­lieves a clin­ic would be “very harm­ful” to the com­munity, point­ing to Frank­ford as a neigh­bor­hood in de­cline be­cause of ex­ist­ing drug-re­cov­ery cen­ters.

“The only way to stop it is if Dr. Avila re­jects the ap­plic­a­tion. He can make this all go away,” Boyle said.

He called Heal­ing Way an “op­por­tun­ist” for not ex­plain­ing what it plans to do or who makes up the agency.

“It’s been a very se­cret­ive pro­cess,” he said.

Bobby Hen­on, the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate in the 6th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict to re­place the re­tir­ing Kra­jew­ski, also wrote a let­ter to Avila, ex­press­ing his strong op­pos­i­tion to the pro­pos­al and his out­rage at Heal­ing Way’s fail­ure to in­form neigh­bors and civic and polit­ic­al lead­ers.

“I and my fu­ture con­stitu­ents are ap­palled by the lack of trans­par­ency re­gard­ing the pro­cess used to de­term­ine the end use of this prop­erty,” wrote Hen­on, who faces Re­pub­lic­an Sandra Stew­art in Novem­ber’s gen­er­al elec­tion.

Primavera sent a let­ter to Kra­jew­ski that was copied to the Times and May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent Joe De­Fe­lice. In the let­ter, he men­tioned a dis­cus­sion with Har­riet Frank­lin, a health-care at­tor­ney who works in the King of Prus­sia law of­fice of Stevens & Lee and is deal­ing with the reg­u­la­tions for Heal­ing Way.

“Har­riet tells me that when the med­ic­al of­fice is opened there will be an op­por­tun­ity for civic lead­ers and elec­ted of­fi­cials to meet with the health-care pro­viders to dis­cuss any po­ten­tial con­cerns or is­sues which may ex­ist,” he wrote.

De­Fe­lice wrote back, in an e-mail, “With all due re­spect, we have no in­terest in see­ing this busi­ness open. There­fore, we re­quest a meet­ing pri­or to such.”

The civic lead­er in­vited Primavera, Frank­lin and Heal­ing Way to a com­munity meet­ing on Tues­day, Ju­ly 26, at 6 p.m. at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School.

Frank­lin, the Heal­ing Way law­yer, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from the Times.

A large protest was sched­uled out­side the fa­cil­ity on Tues­day night, Ju­ly 19, after the Times went to press this week.

Milt Mar­telack, an Aldine Street res­id­ent who is a patrolling mem­ber of the Ta­cony/Holmes­burg/Up­per May­fair Town Watch, held a mini-protest last week to in­form pass­ersby of the site’s in­tent. Mar­telack said neigh­bors ex­pressed con­cern when learn­ing of the pro­pos­al.

“It would be a night­mare for Holmes­burg and May­fair,” he said. ••

The pub­lic is in­vited to at­tend a com­munity meet­ing about the pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic on Tues­day, Ju­ly 26, at 6 p.m. at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School.

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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