Drug clinic efforts continue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Despite opposition and an injunction against one contender, efforts to open a methadone clinic in Shelby County continue.

In light of an application by Robert White, president of Cahaba Valley Treatment Center, to open a methadone clinic in Shelby County, Susan Staats-Sidwell, executive director/co-owner of Shelby County Treatment Center, has filed a letter of intent to open the clinic she has been stopped from opening by a Shelby County judge.

Sidwell was originally granted a certificate of need last year by the State Health Planning and Development Agency.

However, neighborhood homeowners in Saginaw, legislators and law enforcement officials rallied against the clinic in Shelby County.

Methodone, an accepted form of treatment for drug addiction, is used to combat addiction to heroin and prescription drugs.

Last October, Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves upheld an injunction against the Shelby County Treatment Center in Saginaw.

Proposed clinic owners Staats-Sidwell and Dr. Glenn Archibald had filed an application for a methadone clinic in Calera in November 2003 but later changed the location to Saginaw.

Sidwell has since appealed the injunction against the clinic to the Court of Civil Appeals in Montgomery.

According to Jim Sanders, deputy director of the State Health Planning and Development Agency, the letter of intent allows Sidwell to file for another certificate of need to open the clinic if her appeal fails.

He explained that the letter of intent would give Sidwell intervenal status.

Sidwell said fewer than 30 people opposed her clinic along with some politicians.

In the case against Sidwell, plaintiffs, including District Attorney Robby Owens and Pelham prosecutor Mickey Johnson, claimed 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.

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

Sidwell said she has appealed the injunction to the Court of Civil Appeals in Montgomery.

Sidwell claimed no evidence was ever presented against her and in the last two weeks, the evidence that she presented in her case was turned over to the Court of Civil Appeals. She said that case is awaiting the assignment of a judge.

Sidwell said she filed the letter of intent calling it &uot;an abundance of caution&uot; because White had filed an application with the state board.

&uot;I’ve already bought the property,&uot; she said. She also claimed she had already been giving permission (from the Certificate of Need board) to open the clinic and that she followed all the rules indicating she did not believe that notification of the public was one of the rules.

&uot;This is a prescription medication,&uot; she said of methadone.

Addicts of opiates &uot; are disabled,&uot; Sidwell said.

&uot;They have a brain disease. They need medication,&uot; she said, indicating based on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is illegal to discriminate against those with substance abuse problems.

Sidwell said she continues to try and open a methadone clinic in Shelby County because of the need.

&uot;Why should people in Shelby County have to drive an hour every day?&uot;

Sidwell denied that the clinic is planned in a residential area. Instead, she said, the location she has chosen is two-tenths of a mile from a lime plant and one mile from the largest shopping center in Shelby County, the new Colonial Promenade in Alabaster.

Her letter to the director of the State Health Planning and Development Agency received May 16 of this year states, &uot;Based on the previously awarded CON (certificate of need) SCTC (Shelby County Treatment Center) has already built its facility, purchased property and was awaiting DEA approval. However, due to the circumstances of the appeal and out of an abundance of caution, SCTC is submitting this letter of intent.&uot;

According to the letter, the building is complete and equipment is purchased.

The yearly operating cost for the first year will be $186,000, with the &uot;low cost&uot; due to donated services and equipment and already purchased items.

The letter pinpoints the location of the planned clinic at 750 Highway 31 S. in Saginaw.

&uot;There are no treatment centers in the county and for a person to attempt therapy, the closest would be a daily round trip of approximately 70 miles. We estimate with the first year treating daily, 100-150 patients,&uot; the letter states.

For his part in opposition to the Shelby County Treatment Center during the hearings, White said he was not opposed to a methadone clinic opening in the county, &uot;per say.&uot;

&uot;There is a need for a clinic in Shelby County,&uot; he said indicating there were other factors involved in his opposition to Sidwell’s CON approval.

White and Sidwell among others were partners in the operation of Northwest Alabama Treatment Center in Bessemer.

White said he has filed for a certificate of need for a clinic in Shelby County and is going through the process currently.

He said the public will have an opportunity to speak for or against what he is offering.

White said Sidwell engaged in deception over the location of the center and claimed she &uot;manipulated the community and she deceived the board of directors of the Northwest Alabama Treatment Center.&uot;

On May 13, the SHPDA announced that White had filed &uot;an application to open a methadone maintenance treatment center.&uot;

According to the release, the cost of the proposed project would be some $174,652