Methadone battle may prompt changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A one-year battle over the opening of Shelby County’s first methadone clinic may prompt changes in the approval process for medical facilities in the state.

Local legislators have encouraged the State Health Planning and Development Agency to consider changes in the approval process for methadone clinics.

Rep. Mike Hill (R-Columbiana) said he and others support changes that would allow affected community members to voice their opposition to any proposed methadone clinic.

Under state law, hospitals and methadone clinics are approved in the same way.

&uot;It just needs to change. There need to be some differences,&uot; Hill said.

Sen. Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo) said he thinks the language in the application for

a methadone clinic should be specific, and that community members must be notified.

&uot;I think the CON (Certificate of Need) for a clinic has to be very specific,&uot; he said. &uot;The location must be pinpointed to the exact community. The way the rules read right now, it could be the whole county. Shelby County can be a mighty big county.&uot;

Erwin said he hopes the state Health Planning and Development Agency will change what he considers fluid guidelines for methadone clinics.

Erwin backed residents of unincorporated Saginaw during their battle to block the opening of a methadone clinic in their community this year. Erwin said residents were not properly notified of the clinic’s opening.

&uot;There needs to be greater notification to the community in general to allow their input in the final decision,&uot; Erwin said. &uot;I think that greatly improves steps toward due process, by eliminating the surprises of Saginaw.&uot;

Earlier this month, Shelby Count Circuit Judge Dan Reeves blocked the Shelby County Treatment Center from opening in Saginaw.

District Attorney Robby Owens and Pelham attorney Mickey Johnson represented plaintiffs in the case, claiming that citizens’ rights to due process were violated.

The Shelby County Treatment Center would have been the county’s first methadone clinic. During the application procedure with the state Health Planning and Development Agency, applicants indicated Calera as the clinic’s location.

The Health Planning and Development Agency approved an amended application to move the clinic’s location to Saginaw, but residents claimed they did not have ample time to oppose the clinic.

Susan Staats-Sidwell, owner of the Shelby County Treatment Center, said she is appealing the injunction against the clinic. Staats-Sidwell said she followed state guidelines of the state Health Planning and Development Agency