U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Bob Brady have written a letter to a Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration official, urging her agency to halt development of a proposed methadone clinic at 7900-04 Frankford Ave.
The Healing Way is seeking to open the clinic and won a recent round in Common Pleas Court.
However, neighbors have hired attorneys Dawn Tancredi and Phil McFillin to appeal to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Also, THW must obtain permits from the state Health Department.
In their Aug. 20 letter to Michele M. Leonhart, Schwartz (D-13th dist.) and Brady (D-1st dist.) wrote that, “While we are cognizant of the need for access to medical treatment services for those who have succumbed to addiction, this community and the surrounding area are currently being adequately served by similar facilities in the area. Our concerns, and those of many in our community, center around the impact of such a facility on economic development, public safety and the efficacy of efforts to reduce drug abuse in the city.”
The letter pointed to the opposition to the clinic by the Holmesburg, Mayfair, Holme Circle, Tacony and Greater Bustleton civic associations; the Mayfair Business Association; the Mayfair Community Development Corporation; and state Sen. Mike Stack, state Reps. John Taylor, Kevin Boyle and Mike McGeehan and City Councilmen Bobby Henon and Dennis O’Brien.
“All of us believe that the Healing Way clinic would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts to revitalize this neighborhood,” the letter said.
The letter also pointed to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that it is common for methadone clinic patients to continue to use heroin and other drugs such as cocaine and marijuana and alcohol after admission to treatment.
Schwartz and Brady also expressed concern that the Healing Way owners do not have experience or training in substance abuse treatment or health-care services.
Neighbors opposed to the clinic worry about loitering, a decrease in property values, an increase in traffic, a lack of parking and a negative impact on existing businesses. In addition, they point to the clinic’s proximity to day care centers, schools, dance studios and churches.
The facility would dispense methadone, which is used to wean addicts off drugs. It is usually administered in liquid form. The clinic would operate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 patients per day.
The fight over the clinic dates to January 2011, when the city Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a use permit for the Frankford Avenue site, and THW obtained building permits for interior alterations of the 4,830-square-foot property.
Neighbors appealed L&I’s issuance of the permit.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment heard the appeals in August 2011, then ruled in March 2012 in a 4-1 vote that a methadone clinic — unlike a medical office, hospital or medical center — is not a permitted use of a property that is zoned C-2.
The Healing Way appealed that ruling to Common Pleas Court, and Judge Idee Fox heard arguments in December 2012. A city lawyer sided with THW at the hearing.
In her written opinion, Fox determined that a methadone clinic is a permitted use of a C-2 property, and that the zoning board was wrong in its ruling.
The Healing Way wants to move into a property that has been vacant since 2008. The Last Call closed that year after a shooting outside the bar.
The site is not related to another proposed methadone clinic in the area. In April, the ZBA approved a bid by NorthEast Treatment Centers to open a clinic at 7520 State Road. The Mayfair and Holmesburg civic associations and some State Road businesses oppose the facility. An attorney is appealing the zoning board’s decision to Common Pleas Court. ••