Methadone battle may move to Montgomery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Shelby County judge has halted the opening of the county’s first methadone clinic, but attorneys for the clinic want their case heard in Montgomery.

Last week, Circuit Judge Dan Reeves ruled that applicants for the Shelby Treatment Center must obtain a new Certificate of Need from the Alabama State Health and Planning Development Agency.

The certificate must specify the clinic’s proposed location of Saginaw. The original Certificate of Need applied to the entire county.

In January, Susan Staats-Sidwell and Dr. Glenn Archibald were issued a Certificate of Need from the State Health and Planning Development Agency to open Shelby Treatment Center. The certificate permitted the applicants to administer methadone, a prescription drug used to combat addiction to pain killers and heroin.

Originally, the clinic applicants intended to open the center in Calera. After failing to secure a lease, however, a location was found in unincorporated Saginaw on U.S. Highway 31.

When clinic applicants found out they could not secure a location in Calera, they filed a project modification on May 24 with the state agency, which was approved.

According to District Attorney Robby Owens, a new location in Saginaw was chosen eight weeks after the Feb. 5 date when the opportunity to appeal the clinic expired. Owens also contended that the Saginaw facility was bought before the applicants filed the project modification, calling the location change a trick.

This month, Reeves upheld a restraining order against Shelby Treatment Center which was to be located in a converted warehouse on U.S. Highway 31 in Saginaw.

Construction may continue at the site, but treatment cannot begin under Reeves’ orders.

Reeves granted the preliminary injunction at the request of Owens, who represented a group of Saginaw residents who claim they were defrauded by the clinic applicants.

Saginaw residents claim they were not given adequate notification or time to respond when the state health agency approved the clinic’s move to Saginaw.

News of the proposed methadone clinic first spread to most county residents through local media on Nov. 25.

The time period for registering to oppose the clinic during the certificate of need hearing in Montgomery ended Feb. 5.

David Belser, attorney for the clinic applicants, said the State Health and Planning Development Agency should also defend the case, since they granted the Certificate of Need.

Belser claims that his clients met all of the state health agency’s requirements in obtaining the Certificate of Need.

According to Belser, Reeves has no authority to hear a case that centers on the regulations of a state agency. Belser wants the case moved to Montgomery County Circuit Court, with the state health agency as co-defendants