Neighbors vote ‘no’ to a proposed methadone clinic

Many in the East Kens­ing­ton com­munity said at a meet­ing last week that they are con­cerned about the ef­fects a meth­adone fa­cil­ity could have on the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood, es­pe­cially if the fa­cil­ity in­creases the num­ber of cli­ents it serves. 

The East Kens­ing­ton com­munity voted down 54-8 Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al’s pro­pos­al to move its meth­adone dis­pens­ary fa­cil­ity from its cur­rent loc­a­tion to one just over a block away, and closer to pub­lic trans­it and schools. 

The East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, the Nor­ris Square Civic As­so­ci­ation and Hope Street Neigh­bors for Bet­ter Liv­ing came as­sembled at a joint meet­ing on Nov. 12 at Kens­ing­ton Min­is­tries Pres­by­teri­an Church to hear Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al’s plans for the move.

The hos­pit­al is pro­pos­ing the renov­a­tion of a va­cant build­ing at 2100 N. Front St., as well as the con­struc­tion of an ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing build­ing. 

Neigh­bors at the meet­ing raised con­cerns that the pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic would be close to Kens­ing­ton CAPA School as well as the Berks SEPTA train sta­tion. 

Carl Primavera, an at­tor­ney work­ing with Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al, ex­plained at the meet­ing that the hos­pit­al was giv­en a grant by the city for the ex­pli­cit pur­pose of mov­ing the meth­adone fa­cil­ity to the new loc­a­tion. Once it’s moved, the hos­pit­al would back­fill that space with oth­er hos­pit­al pro­grams.

The cur­rent meth­adone pro­gram has been in op­er­a­tion for 15 years, and sees 130 people per day. It has a ca­pa­city of 160 people, but is un­able to meet ca­pa­city be­cause of space. 

Hos­pit­al ad­min­is­trat­ors ex­plained that the pro­posed clin­ic is not a new pro­gram, but is in­ten­ded to simply move the same pro­gram to the new build­ing. At the new build­ing, Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al is per­mit­ted by the state to have a ca­pa­city of 300, but hos­pit­al presenters were adam­ant that they did not ex­pect that would hap­pen quickly, if at all.

Dan Dugan, dir­ect­or of be­ha­vi­or­al health ser­vices at the hos­pit­al, said the new fa­cil­ity would “prob­ably stay at the ex­ist­ing num­ber for awhile,” and also out­lined the fa­cil­ity’s pro­posed hours: from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., pa­tients who have doc­u­mented jobs re­port to the fa­cil­ity; oth­er pa­tients can vis­it from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and then, Dugan said, from noon to 2:30, “new cli­ents and ‘prob­lem’ cli­ents” can vis­it the fa­cil­ity.

Neigh­bors were con­cerned that the “prob­lem cli­ent” wave would take place just as nearby schools were dis­miss­ing stu­dents. Dugan said the hos­pit­al would re­ad­just its hours for that time­frame.

Dugan also said, “We have not seen any drug trans­ac­tions while we’re open [at the cur­rent fa­cil­ity]…[but] we can’t con­trol Front Street.”

Meet­ing at­tendees were par­tic­u­larly skep­tic­al of the in­creased ca­pa­city, es­pe­cially be­cause the hos­pit­al cur­rently has a va­cant, boarded-up fourth floor. A hos­pit­al rep­res­ent­at­ive ex­plained that Kens­ing­ton hos­pit­al began renov­a­tions on the fourth floor of the hos­pit­al, and found as­bes­tos. The hos­pit­al had to ab­sorb the funds to re­move the as­bes­tos, and so put the renov­a­tions on hold. That floor, then, can not be used for the meth­adone clin­ic.

Eileen Hause, CEO of Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al, said that mov­ing the fa­cil­ity to the new loc­a­tion will al­low it to be a “state of the art med­ic­al build­ing.” 

“We need space for the cli­ents we already have,” Hause said, and ex­plained that the new space will have cam­er­as and a guard.

Eliza­beth and Joa­quin Koenig, who live only 100 feet from the pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic loc­a­tion, told Star they were very con­cerned about the new clin­ic po­ten­tially mov­ing to their street.

“My con­cern is we have young chil­dren, and every­one uses pub­lic trans­port­a­tion and walks with their kids…[the hos­pit­al said] they already can’t con­trol what’s go­ing on,” Eliza­beth said.

“The neigh­bor­hood is re­vital­iz­ing, it’s get­ting bet­ter, so to us it’s like we can’t even fathom why this is go­ing on,” Joa­quin said. “It’s like this is a step back.”

At­tendee Vic­tor Neg­ron said the meth­adone clin­ic is a much-needed ser­vice, and he was in sup­port of the hos­pit­al mov­ing the clin­ic to a new loc­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly be­cause there would be more space for things like a wait­ing room for pa­tients, he said. 

“I didn’t know we were talk­ing about ex­pand­ing,” he said. “How do we sup­port the po­ten­tial doub­ling [of cli­ents]? How do we work to­geth­er to ad­dress it?”

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