Neighbors fight methadone clinic

The pro­posed clin­ic at 2100 N. Front St. would op­er­ate just down the street from its ori­gin­al loc­a­tion at Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al. 

A pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic would op­er­ate at 2100 N. Front St., down the street from its cur­rent loc­a­tion at Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al. CAR­O­LAN DI­FIORE / STAR PHOTO

Loc­al com­munity lead­ers and mem­bers alike are weigh­ing in on the pro­pos­al for a meth­adone clin­ic to op­er­ate at 2100 N. Front St. in Kens­ing­ton. 

The clin­ic, which func­tions as a treat­ment cen­ter for heroin ad­dicts, is cur­rently housed in­side Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al, loc­ated at 136 W. Dia­mond St. 

Com­munity mem­bers voted over­whelm­ingly against the move to a new fa­cil­ity on Front Street at a joint pub­lic meet­ing of three com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions (East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, Hope Street Neigh­bors for Bet­ter Liv­ing and Nor­ris Square Civic As­so­ci­ation) on Nov. 12 of last year. 

“We have our con­cerns,” New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Sandy Salzman said. 

Com­munity mem­bers are wor­ried about the po­ten­tial neg­at­ive con­sequences the clin­ic could im­pose on their neigh­bor­hood. These are de­tailed in a let­ter from the NK­CDC to the Phil­adelphia Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment. 

“We think the hos­pit­al is the best place for the clin­ic,” Salzman said. “Many of our con­cerns deal a lot with mov­ing the clin­ic out­side the hos­pit­al in­to a com­mer­cial cor­ridor where you don’t have enough in­teri­or space to be in­side.” 

Pa­tient over­flow, Salzman said, can lead to loiter­ing in the area, which has been the sub­ject of com­plaints from loc­al res­id­ents. 

“This has the po­ten­tial to bring drug deal­ers in­to the neigh­bor­hood to prey on people,” Salzman said.  

Oth­ers be­lieve that there are pos­it­ive as­pects to the clin­ic mov­ing.

Coun­cil­wo­man Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez (D-7th dist.) said in an email that she un­der­stands those who are leery about the clin­ic, but be­lieves it presents a way to com­bat a lar­ger is­sue. 

“Ad­dic­tion is a city­wide pub­lic health prob­lem,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “I feel strongly that we have a re­spons­ib­il­ity and mor­al ob­lig­a­tion to en­sure that treat­ment is ac­cess­ible and avail­able where people need it.”

Quiñones-Sánchez ex­pressed her as­sur­ance that Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al has the abil­ity to op­er­ate the meth­adone clin­ic safely and ef­fi­ciently.

“As a close neigh­bor of Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al’s cur­rent site, I have con­fid­ence in the pro­vider’s safety plan and their com­mit­ment not to in­crease their pa­tient ca­pa­city,” she said. 

Chris­toph­er Saw­yer, own­er of Phil­ade­lin­, presen­ted his own con­cerns in a let­ter to the zon­ing board dated Jan. 10. 

“Coun­sel for Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al in­dic­ated that the ex­pan­sion was needed for Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al ‘to sur­vive,’” Saw­yer said, ref­er­en­cing a re­cent com­munity meet­ing. 

Saw­yer said he was also con­cerned that there would be a lack of se­cur­ity around the clin­ic and an over­flow of pa­tients in­to the sur­round­ing area, threat­en­ing to make it a breed­ing ground for drug deal­ings. 

“The City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has ut­terly failed to re­com­mend the best way for­ward for MAT [Med­ic­al As­sisted Treat­ment] clin­ic ex­pan­sion to co-ex­ist peace­fully with dense, urb­an­res­id­en­tial en­vir­on­ments,” Saw­yer said in the let­ter. 

Kens­ing­ton Hos­pit­al de­clined to com­ment on the situ­ation. 

Mean­while, City Coun­cil is set to con­sider a bill this week that would make it more dif­fi­cult for new meth­adone clin­ics to open in the 1st Dis­trict, which in­cludes parts of the River Wards. 

The zon­ing board will hold a pub­lic hear­ing and vote on wheth­er to ap­prove the zon­ing change that will al­low the clin­ic to be built on Wed­nes­day, Feb. 19, at noon at 1515 Arch St., 18th floor. ••

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