Holmesburg fears influx of addicts from methadone clinic

Posted: June 04, 2014

CARMEN LOPEZ lives half a block down Frankford Avenue from Healing Way methadone clinic, but she wasn't invited to its invitation-only open house yesterday.

So she stood outside and graphically described her fear of the addicts who will soon be coming to her Holmesburg neighborhood for treatment.

A big square bandage covered the knife wound in the petite woman's chest.

"I couldn't sleep early Saturday morning," Lopez said, "so I walked out on my back porch, and a man who was obviously high on drugs came at me with a knife and stabbed me in the chest."

Behind her, Healing Way, which plans to open soon, after winning a long court battle against residents and elected officials, still looked vacant.

Its windows were covered in brown paper. There was no signage. The open house was as shrouded in secrecy as the proposed clinic has been since its legal battle began in 2011. Only five people showed up.

"I grabbed the blade," Lopez said. "The man hit me in the face, hard. I screamed my husband's name. The man got scared and ran away."

The stab wound was inches from her heart. She is lucky to be alive.

Lopez's daughter Kayla, 13, said, "I'm worried every day now. I'm terrified. My little brother Marc, who is 12, walks to school and walks to the [Holmesburg] library, right past this place."

Healing Way, on Frankford Avenue near Decatur Street, is within a block of two day-care centers and a church school.

"This street is like a highway for kids walking to and from [J.H.] Brown School and [Edwin] Forrest School," said Lopez's husband, Carlos.

"My kids walk to school here every day. Once the clinic opens, I'll have to walk with them. I'm all for people getting help. But not where all these children walk."

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, who was invited to the open house but did not attend, said, "It's an insane location for a methadone clinic.

"Unfortunately, the courts are very literal in the way they interpret the law. I don't think any of the judges who approved this location want a methadone clinic half a block away from where they live."

Boyle said the one positive is the restriction to 85 patients per day - far below the 300-plus patients originally estimated by the state Health Department, based on the clinic's square footage.

City Councilman Bobby Henon said, "The process has been bad from day one because the community vigorously opposes the clinic being in that location. We don't oppose Healing Way trying to put people back into society and making them productive."

Henon said that he and other Northeast Philadelphia public officials will put out a guide for neighborhood residents, listing who to call to report violations of loitering and criminal laws.

"It's my hope we'll be reaching out to Healing Way's principals to go over what's expected of a good neighbor in a bad location," Henon said. "My hope is they'll be good neighbors. If not, they'll be treated as bad neighbors."

On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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