Judge denies methadone clinic – Appeal set; other applications looming

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Shelby County Circuit judge upheld an order prohibiting a methadone clinic from conducting business in Saginaw.

Dan Reeves upheld an injunction against the Shelby County Treatment Center, which was set to open on U.S. Highway 31 in Saginaw. Reeves’ decision came last week after a series of court hearings in which the clinic’s owners argued that they had the right to open in unincorporated Saginaw.

Plaintiffs, including District Attorney Robby Owens and Pelham prosecutor Mickey Johnson, claimed that the clinic owners violated due process by changing the clinic’s proposed location to Saginaw. Saginaw residents were never given the opportunity to oppose the clinic, according to the plaintiffs.

Clinic owners Susan Staats-Sidwell and Dr. Glenn Archibald originally filed an application for a methadone clinic in Calera in November 2003. They amended the application in May to open the clinic in Saginaw, an unincorporated community between Calera and Alabaster.

Neighborhood homeowners, legislators and law enforcement officials rallied in opposition to the clinic. Methadone is a prescribed medication used to combat addiction to heroin and prescription drugs.

Owens held a press conference following Reeves’ decision.

&uot;He (Reeves) found that procedural due process was not met,&uot; Owens said.

Owens disputed Staats-Sidwell’s claim that she could not find a suitable or affordable location in Calera. He said that Staats-Sidwell intended to open the clinic elsewhere when she filed the application indicating Calera.

&uot;In fact, you could do it much cheaper in Calera than you could in Saginaw. Our contention all along was that she didn’t intend to put the clinic in Calera,&uot; he said.

Despite Owens’ argument, Reeves’ ruling only states that citizens were denied due process in the application process for the clinic.

&uot;We never deny citizens their right to be heard, but that’s what happened,&uot; Owens said. &uot;But not now.&uot;

Alan Edmondson lives next door to the proposed location of the methadone clinic in Saginaw. He helped organize opposition to the clinic’s opening. Edmondson said neighbors are glad that Reeves blocked the clinic.

&uot;We were kind of ecstatic around here,&uot; he said. &uot;I think it’s a good decision. I think it will stand.&uot;

Along with the sheriff and district attorney, Edmondson disagrees with methadone’s medical use.

&uot;There is no use for methadone. If you are serious about getting off of drugs, there is a way to do it,&uot; he said.

Edmondson said he has warned neighboring residents of Alabaster about methadone clinics that may be proposed for their city. Edmondson said one man from a methadone clinic in Bessemer told him he wanted to open a clinic near Shelby Baptist Hospital.

Owens denied Staats-Sidwell’s claims that he used the methadone clinic controversy as a political weapon. Owens is running for re-election this fall.

&uot;I hope it never becomes political when it comes to me standing up for the people who elected me,&uot; he said.

Owens said he does not think the county needs a methadone clinic, calling methadone a substance of abuse. He said his opposition to future clinics proposed for the county depends on their location. Owens said he has not received any notice of applications for new methadone clinics in the county.

During one of the court proceedings for the methadone clinic, one man said that he would follow Staats-Sidwell with his own application for a methadone clinic in Shelby County. Robert White is founder of the Northwest Alabama Treatment Center in Bessemer, one of three methadone clinics in Jefferson County.

According to Staats-Sidwell, Shelby County residents need methadone treatment. She filed an immediate appeal of Reeves’ injunction last week.

&uot;I’m very sad. I think this is a tragedy for people who need medical treatment,&uot; she said.

During court proceedings, Staats-Sidwell said the Certificate of Need issued to her for the methadone clinic applied county-wide, although the original location listed in the application was Calera.

&uot;Because I could not find a place I made an amendment to Saginaw,&uot; she said.