Impact of methadone treatment center debated in Northeast

Posted: January 31, 2013

Recovery specialist Andre Ried said he put his life back on track, thanks to drug-addiction treatment he received at a clinic.

Methadone provides "hope" to addicts seeking to get clean and "get their lives back," he said Wednesday during a hearing at the Mayfair Community Center.

State Rep. Kevin J. Boyle (D., Phila.) requested Wednesday's House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Mayfair, where about 20 state lawmakers and several recovery specialists gathered to discuss the impact and merits of methadone treatment facilities.

Boyle said he reintroduced a proposal that would tighten regulations on where methadone clinics can operate, including full public disclosure and approval from law enforcement.

Boyle's original bill died in the last session. The bill reflected community opposition to an attempt by an organization called Healing Way to open a methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street. Boyle accused Healing Way of avoiding public scrutiny.

"We need to figure out how to do treatment in a responsible way," Boyle said. He said he invited Healing Way to the hearing but did not get a response.

Carl Primavera, a lawyer for Healing Way, said via e-mail Wednesday night: "They did all that the law required, like other medical offices. They rented the offices and secured city permits to improve the space. They complied with all of the regulations, so they did not have to go to any public hearings.

"The nature of medical treatment is private and confidential, and it is unfair to target sick people for public abuse. When was the last time you recall a psychiatrist holding a public meeting to talk about opening his medical office?"

Boyle said his bill would mandate community involvement and did not seek to stigmatize addicts. "The need for treatment is recognized by everyone here," he said.

Noni West, a Doylestown Borough councilwoman and volunteer with the recovery advocate group PRO-ACT, said there was "an epidemic of opiate addiction." West said Doylestown had successfully zoned for a methadone clinic that has not been a problem in the borough.

Sandy Cini, clinical director of the Doylestown-based Aldie Counseling Center, said Pennsylvania has tight regulations on licensed treatment facilities. She told the lawmakers to not confuse regulated, licensed clinics with recovery houses.

"Untreated addiction is what we should be concerned about, not treatment," said Cini, who compared an addict's need for methadone to a diabetic's need for insulin.

James Cornish, a University of Pennsylvania professor, said taxpayer-funded studies show methadone "is an excellent medication," a "very effective treatment."

Cornish said a good treatment program does not just provide methadone but also delivers help in employment, literacy, and social skills.

Boyle's bill seeks to tighten regulations on any proposed clinic that would distribute narcotics, primarily methadone, to addicts seeking treatment.

Drug-treatment recovery houses in the city's Frankford section, which provide services but do not distribute methadone, have contributed to an increase in crime and decrease in residential quality of life, a Northeast Philadelphia civic leader and a police captain said at the hearing.

They said drug addicts roam neighborhood streets, urinate in public, and tamper with property. Frankford Civic Association president Pete Specos said a survey by his group revealed that more than 100 recovery houses operate in Frankford.

Capt. John McCloskey said drug dealers boost their profits by preying on addicts who go to rehab houses for treatment. He also said there was a link between a "small prostitution problem" and the recovery houses.

"They need help and should get help," McCloskey said of addicts during the hearing. But instead of a methadone clinic opening on Frankford Avenue, McCloskey said, he believes it should open in a less-populated area like State Road.

Allen McQuarrie of PRO-ACT, who has been in recovery for 28 years, said the hearing put forth a "terrific panel." He said the concerns for wanting transparency, dialogue in the communities, and a wholesome program with adequate parking are valid.

"I think a clinic has to be a good neighbor," McQuarrie said.

Contact Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman at, or follow on Twitter @sabdurr.


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