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 Philadelinquency.com, 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. ••