County braces for drug clinic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Despite opposition from county commissioners and Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry, the state Certificate of Need Board granted approval this month for a methadone clinic in the county.

The board serves the State Health Planning and Development Agency in Montgomery.

Some reports indicated the clinic is planned for Calera, although Calera Mayor George Roy could not confirm it.

&uot;The only thing that I know is it’s been approved at the state,&uot; Roy said last week. &uot;I have no idea where.&uot;

Shelby County Attorney Frank C. &uot;Butch&uot; Ellis said Monday the county had no immediate plans to block the proposed methadone clinic. Ellis said, however, the county commission remains opposed to the proposed methadone clinic.

&uot;That opposition continues, but whether that opposition will translate into any legal opposition &045; at this point, I don’t think anybody can say,&uot; Ellis said.

The state Certificate of Need Board granted applicants Susan Staats-Sidwell and Dr. Glenn Archibald approval to open a methadone clinic in Shelby County.

Methadone is a prescription medication used to combat symptoms of addiction to painkillers or heroin.

Curry had written a letter that was approved by the Shelby County Commission opposing the methadone clinic; however, the clinic was approved anyway.

On Tuesday, Sidwell said she hopes to find an industrial location in Calera. She said Calera is a central site between other regional clinics in the state.

According to Sidwell, there is a need for methadone treatment in Shelby County.

She said she has heard from &uot;tons&uot; of addicts in Shelby County who cannot find reliable transportation to methadone clinics outside the county.

Within a year of opening Shelby County’s first methadone clinic, Sidwell said she predicts it will treat 100 patients daily.

&uot;People have contacted me,&uot; Sidwell said. &uot;They’re desperate.&uot;

Some prescription drugs that lead to methadone treatment include the painkillers Lortab and Oxycontin, according to Sidwell. Methadone mimics the brain function of non-addicts.

&uot;It’s permanently brain-changing,&uot; she said of opiate addiction. &uot;Methadone tells them they’re OK and they can be taxpaying citizens again.&uot;

Sidwell responded to the opposition posed by Curry and some commissioners, saying that addicts are sometimes unfairly associated with crime.

She said the clinic she wants to open will serve people seeking help, not necessarily criminals ordered to treatment through the courts.

&uot;When they’re in treatment, they’re getting help,&uot; Sidwell said. &uot;It’s like a diabetic that needs insulin.&uot;

For the past 10 years, Sidwell has served as executive director and part-owner of the Northwest Alabama Treatment Center in Bessemer, a methadone clinic. She said the center is located adjacent to a church and several doctor’s offices, and she has had no problems.

With this month’s approval from the state Certificate of Need Board, Sidwell said finding a location is the only step remaining for the county’s first methadone clinic