County force-fed methadone

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Whether you like it or not, Shelby County will soon feature a medical facility where drug addicts receive controversial methadone treatment to combat addiction to other drugs including heroin and prescription painkillers.

If it seems ironic, don’t tell it to the residents of Saginaw and Camp Branch, the site of the Shelby Treatment Center, set to open in July.

They already know how strange it is that the clinic is opening in their small, unincorporated community of families and farmers. They agree that it doesn’t make much sense to trade one drug addiction for another.

The people of Shelby County have been bamboozled by the owners of the soon-to-open Shelby Treatment Center, a partnership that currently operates the Northwest Alabama Treatment Center in Bessemer, another methadone clinic.

The owners received approval for the clinic in Shelby County by the state Certificate of Need Board, which serves the State Health Planning and Development Agency in Montgomery. This board is appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature.

Some people in the county feel that this board has cheated them. This is the same board that denied a certificate of need for open-heart surgery facilities at Shelby Baptist Hospital, but it found sufficient need for a methadone clinic in Saginaw.

The Certificate of Need Board and the State Health Planning and Development Agency must change the process by which medical facilities are approved. Sheriff Chris Curry said he was never notified of the application for the methadone clinic. He and county commissioners protested in vain, since they never knew about the looming methadone center until it was too late.

Who does the Certificate of Need Board and the State Health Planning and Development Agency aim to serve? Drug addicts and the business that perpetuate their symptoms, or the goodwill of the community they inhabit