Saginaw residents: No to methadone clinic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Sen. Hank Erwin assured a crowd of about 150 people Monday night that he would use his position in Montgomery to change the way methadone clinics are approved for individual communities.

Shelby County will soon host its first methadone clinic in the community of Saginaw on Highway 31.

Residents gathered in the Camp Branch Community Center on Monday night to oppose the clinic and to organize a last-ditch effort to block its opening.

The meeting, organized by Alan Edmonson, featured fiery speeches by Erwin and other community leaders condemning the clinic. Edmonson lives in property adjacent to the clinic on Highway 31.

Construction workers have been building the clinic in the old Stovall warehouse on Highway 31.

Edmonson said Monday that he felt targeted because his property is in an unincorporated portion of Shelby County.

&uot;I love being unzoned, but it can bite you in the butt,&uot; he said.

Edmonson consulted with Pelham attorney Mickey Johnson, who also attended Monday’s meeting.

Johnson referred to the &uot;stealth methods&uot; used by the clinic owners to get approval of a certificate of need for the clinic.

According to Johnson, the clinic is set to open in July or sooner.

Some at Monday’s meeting signed a petition opposing the clinic.

When asked by Johnson, nobody at the meeting said they supported the methadone clinic.

Much of the meeting focused on the state medical agency which grants certificates of need to medical facilities.

&uot;I believe you have been cheated – you have been lied to,&uot; Erwin said to Monday’s crowd gathered in wooden chairs inside of the Camp Branch Community Center. &uot;I am disgusted.

&uot;I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that heads roll in Montgomery because of this,&uot; Erwin said.

According to Erwin, board members on the state agency are appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature.

Monday’s meeting may not prevent Susan Staats-Sidwell and Dr. Glenn Archibald from opening the Shelby Treatment Center.

Staats-Sidwell is executive director of the Northwest Alabama Treatment Center, a methadone clinic in Bessemer.

Archibald is a psychiatrist at the clinic.

In January, state health officials approved a certificate of need for Shelby County’s first methadone clinic.

Methadone is a drug used to combat addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers.

County leaders, including county commissioners and Sheriff Chris Curry, were unable to attend hearings for the certificate of need application.

Curry said he found out about the clinic too late to attend the hearing, but he did write letters opposing it.

During Monday’s meeting, Curry told the crowd about when he first heard about the methadone clinic in November and what he did to oppose it.

&uot;There is no requirement that they notify the law,&uot; Curry said.

Curry said he immediately opposed the clinic, and he told the crowd about the prevalence of overdoses involving methadone and other drugs.

Also, Curry said methadone treatment often lasts for years.

&uot;What happens is you get on this drug and you stay on it,&uot; he said. &uot;I believe very strongly that we don’t need this type of facility in our county.&uot;

According to Curry, county leaders presented &uot;unified, consistent opposition&uot; to the methadone clinic.

Others, such as District Attorney Robby Owens and county commissioners, wrote letters to the state health agency that awarded the certificate of need for the clinic.

Owens said he did not think the clinic was opening after letters were sent.

&uot;I truly anticipated we would get a response to our letter. We never did,&uot; Owens said. &uot;I thought this thing was dead.&uot;

One possible course of action the community could take is for the district attorney’s office to file a civil injunction against the clinic based on civil nuisance, Owens said.

A second public meeting opposing the clinic is scheduled for Monday night