Schwartz, Brady ask feds to nix drug-treatment facility

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. ••

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