Northeast Times

‘It doesn’t conform with the neighborhood’

As res­id­ents con­tin­ue to res­ist pro­posed plans for a meth­adone clin­ic in Holmes­burg, two loc­al politi­cians are at­tempt­ing to give the com­munity a stronger voice.

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. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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