State Sen. Mike Stack and state Rep. Kevin Boyle have introduced identical legislation that will ensure community involvement when a methadone clinic is proposed.
The two lawmakers acted after seeing what Stack described as the “clandestine” actions of The Healing Way, which wants to open a clinic at 7900 Frankford Ave.
Senate Bill 1277 and House Bill 1885 would require:
• A public hearing for all proposed narcotics treatment facilities. Written notices would be distributed 30 days prior to the hearing to all property owners or lessees located within 500 feet of the proposed facility.
• The owner of the proposed facility to receive approval from the local district attorney.
• The proposed facility to have adequate parking before it could be approved by the state Department of Health.
• The state health department to provide written notice to all locally elected public officials at the city, state and federal levels of the location immediately upon receipt of the application. Notice also would be given to the state Single County Authority, the agency responsible for providing drug- and alcohol-addiction treatment to Pennsylvanians who have government-sponsored health coverage.
Boyle suggested that, should the legislation pass, The Healing Way might not be grandfathered in and would have to adhere to the new mandates.
In January, The Healing Way obtained permits through the city Department of Licenses and Inspections. Medical centers are permitted in C-2 zoning.
Neighbors have held several protests outside the proposed facility, and there was a recent community meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School.
City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski (D-6th dist.) has appealed the issuance of the permit. The city Zoning Board of Adjustment listened to arguments on both sides on Aug. 31, and chairwoman Lynette Brown-Sow promised a ruling in three weeks, but no decision has been made.
Stack (D-5th dist.) and Boyle (D-172nd dist.) announced their proposed legislation during an Oct. 13 news conference at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street, outside the planned clinic. The property is the former home of the Last Call bar.
The lawmakers were joined at the podium by Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice, Holmesburg Civic Association president Fred Moore, and Bobby Henon, the Democratic candidate in the 6th Councilmanic District.
Others in attendance included Mayfair Business Association president Mike “Scoats” Scotese, New Foundations Charter School CEO Paul Stadelberger, business owners and an aide to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
Stack said drug recovery is important, but not so close to churches, day-care centers and elementary schools.
“There could not be a worse place for a methadone clinic,” he said.
Stack faulted The Healing Way for not contacting elected officials, businesses and neighbors, and for not holding a public meeting.
In an earlier e-mail to DeFelice, the agency did agree to meet with the community — after opening its doors.
Stack believes The Healing Way has shown disrespect to the community.
“It’s simply wrong. It’s unacceptable,” he said.
Stack is unconvinced that methadone — which is used to help drug addicts kick their habit — is effective. He also worries about the safety of the drug, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 113 deaths in Pennsylvania of people using methadone since 2006.
Boyle, who describes The Healing Way as “sneaky,” contends that opening the clinic would lead to a decline in the neighborhood. Some 500 to 750 people are expected to visit the clinic each day.
While many people would probably walk or take the SEPTA Route 66 bus, others would drive to the facility.
“Does anyone see any parking in this location?” asked Boyle, whose legislation has 20 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
Henon, who faces Republican Sandra Stewart in the Nov. 8 election to replace the retiring Krajewski, fears an increase in crime if the clinic opens. He understands that the permit was issued as a matter of right, but believes that a methadone clinic is not a typical medical center.
“It doesn’t conform with the neighborhood,” he said.
Moore, the Holmesburg Civic Association president, argued that there not only is a lack of parking, but a lack of space in the waiting room. He envisions large groups of people congregating along Frankford Avenue, the main street in the neighborhood.
The zoning board’s impending decision is sure to be appealed to the courts by the losing side, and state and federal agencies will also have to give their approvals before the clinic opens.
Moore remains confident that the clinic will never open.
“It will not happen,” he predicted.
However, Boyle pointed out that the state typically approves two-thirds of the applications to dispense narcotics.
Stack said state officials should have their “heads examined” if they approve the opening of the clinic.
The Healing Way is leasing 4,830 square feet of space from Dennis Kulp, broker/owner of RE/MAX Eastern and owner of the building. Kulp claims he did not know that The Healing Way wanted to open a methadone clinic. ••