Baltimore Suburbs Fight Methadone Clinic Openings

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Residents, business owners and elected officials in Baltimore’s suburbs are mobilizing against methadone clinics, fearing that they will attract crime and drugs to their neighborhoods, the Baltimore Sun reports. The resistance comes at a time when heroin use a demand for treatment are growing in the suburbs. Nationwide, more than 1,200 clinics distribute methadone, which relieves withdrawal symptoms for those addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.

Maryland, with 43 methadone clinics, ranks among the top 10 states in the nation, said Robert Lubran of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Despite evidence of methadone’s effectiveness, some places are blocking clinics. A five-year moratorium on new clinics went into effect in Louisiana on July 1, after a study showed that the state’s 14 clinics were about 3 1/2 times more than were needed. Ohio allows only private, nonprofit clinics or those run by the government. Methadone clinics in Pennsylvania cannot operate within 500 feet of a residential area, public park or church.

The mere mention of a clinic can send fear rippling through a community. When news broke in June of a clinic planning to open in a Baltimore suburb near three schools, three community meetings attracted more than 100 angry residents. Local officials pledged their support. After three weeks of community protests, the clinic’s president said he no longer planned to open there.

One way to avoid conflict is to locate clinics away from places where they might cause disruption. Running a clinic near schools is “not smart,” said Ron Jackson of a group that runs four clinics in Washington state. Neither is dispensing methadone near residential areas, fast-food restaurants or retail outlets. “The confluence of the traffic is not real good – that’s a polite way of saying it,” he said.


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