Battle looms over planned methadone clinic
As opposition mounts in Mayfair and Holmesburg to a proposed methadone clinic at 7900-04 Frankford Ave., there are plenty of unanswered questions.
“Who the hell is Healing Way?” asked Fred Moore, president of the Holmesburg Civic Association.
Healing Way is the name of the agency that wants to operate the clinic, which would be on the corner of Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street.
Moore thinks the agency selected the site because of its convenience to public transportation. The storefront property includes RE/MAX Eastern and 11 apartments on the second floor. The North Star Electric Supply Co. is around the corner, on Decatur Street.
The property is zoned C-2, which allows for commercial activity such as a medical office as long as there are no overnight stays. It’s the former home of the Last Call bar, which has been shut down since a 2008 shooting outside the establishment.
Carl Primavera, a zoning attorney with the Center City law firm Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg, explained that his office was retained by Healing Way to obtain permits from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections on Jan. 11 for a 4,830-square-foot medical office.
Primavera does not handle health-care legal issues, so the permits could have been for an eye doctor, chiropractor or dentist, for all he knew, he said.
But word started to spread that the medical office would be dispensing methadone, which is used to wean people off drugs, usually in a powerful liquid form.
Patti Vaughn, who lives on the 3600 block of Decatur St., said she has seen medicated people on the Market-Frankford El as she travels to work in Center City. Vaughn does not want to see a methadone clinic at the end of her block.
“Young children and older people will be walking back and forth with that clientele,” she said. “It’s not the right location for it.”
Furthermore, Vaughn fears that clients will sell methadone doses, if they are in tablet form, when they leave the office.
“Drug dealers will be attracted to the clinic,” she said.
Domenick Parris agrees. He owns $8 Buck Cuts, a barbershop at 7912 Frankford Ave. Drug dealers will try to “lure them back into the fold,” he believes. He’ll move his business if the clinic opens.
“We couldn’t co-exist there. It would draw a bad clientele,” he said.
Vaughn contacted the office of City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski. The councilwoman opposes the clinic because she worries that clients will congregate outside. She also noted the site’s proximity to schools, churches, residences, a public library and day-care centers.
“We don’t need this,” said Krajewski, who lives on nearby Shelmire Avenue.
She said she will try to secure a lawyer for clinic opponents, in case the issue goes to court. In the meantime, she has called for a hearing in front of the city Zoning Board of Adjustment to get answers from Healing Way.
No matter the outcome of the Aug. 31 hearing, Healing Way is expected to maintain its permits.
“It’s in the state’s hands,” Krajewski said.
The state Department of Health indicated that Healing Way must meet several requirements, and that an opening was not imminent. Press secretary Christine Cronkright issued the following statement:
“Any facility that wishes to operate a methadone clinic, concurrent with the state application process, must contact the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), a component of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Agency (SAMHSA). This will satisfy the federal requirements concerning the establishment of a Narcotic Treatment Program.
“Once the applicant has completed the pre-survey process, then the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Division of Drug and Alcohol Program Licensure will coordinate an initial on-site inspection with the DEA and finalize the process with the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT),” the statement continued. “An applicant has to obtain approval from the commonwealth and both federal agencies before they can be authorized to begin providing services.”
State Reps. Kevin Boyle and Mike McGeehan are working on the issue. The proposed clinic is in Boyle’s district and across the street from McGeehan’s.
Boyle has written a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett and is seeking a meeting with Dr. Eli Avila, secretary of the state health department. The lawmaker believes a clinic would be “very harmful” to the community, pointing to Frankford as a neighborhood in decline because of existing drug-recovery centers.
“The only way to stop it is if Dr. Avila rejects the application. He can make this all go away,” Boyle said.
He called Healing Way an “opportunist” for not explaining what it plans to do or who makes up the agency.
“It’s been a very secretive process,” he said.
Bobby Henon, the Democratic candidate in the 6th Councilmanic District to replace the retiring Krajewski, also wrote a letter to Avila, expressing his strong opposition to the proposal and his outrage at Healing Way’s failure to inform neighbors and civic and political leaders.
“I and my future constituents are appalled by the lack of transparency regarding the process used to determine the end use of this property,” wrote Henon, who faces Republican Sandra Stewart in November’s general election.
Primavera sent a letter to Krajewski that was copied to the Times and Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice. In the letter, he mentioned a discussion with Harriet Franklin, a health-care attorney who works in the King of Prussia law office of Stevens & Lee and is dealing with the regulations for Healing Way.
“Harriet tells me that when the medical office is opened there will be an opportunity for civic leaders and elected officials to meet with the health-care providers to discuss any potential concerns or issues which may exist,” he wrote.
DeFelice wrote back, in an e-mail, “With all due respect, we have no interest in seeing this business open. Therefore, we request a meeting prior to such.”
The civic leader invited Primavera, Franklin and Healing Way to a community meeting on Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Franklin, the Healing Way lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment from the Times.
A large protest was scheduled outside the facility on Tuesday night, July 19, after the Times went to press this week.
Milt Martelack, an Aldine Street resident who is a patrolling member of the Tacony/Holmesburg/Upper Mayfair Town Watch, held a mini-protest last week to inform passersby of the site’s intent. Martelack said neighbors expressed concern when learning of the proposal.
“It would be a nightmare for Holmesburg and Mayfair,” he said. ••
The public is invited to attend a community meeting about the proposed methadone clinic on Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com