Neighbors question methadone clinic site

Medford drug center's proximity to day care has some wondering why it's still operating

Neighbors opposed to a methadone clinic in east Medford are asking state officials why the clinic continues to operate if it's too close to a day care center.

"Why do we continue to license them?" asked State Rep. Sal Esquivel, a Medford Republican who lives close to the methadone clinic on East Main Street, which is near a historic neighborhood.

According to the city of Medford, the clinic is in violation of Oregon Revised Statute 430.590, which requires methadone clinics to be situated at least 1,000 feet away from day care centers. City staff determined the clinic is 897 feet as the crow flies from the Sunshine Day Care Center on Portland Avenue.

The city asked the clinic, run by Allied Health Services at 837 E. Main St., to cease operations, but in June the Medford City Council reached a compromise with the clinic, giving it until Aug. 1, 2013, to vacate the premises.

Serving 505 recovering addicts a day, the clinic opened at the location in 2008. It has about 20 employees, and dosing begins at 5:30 a.m. for patients who are going to work.

The clinic likely would require up to a year to receive approval from federal and state agencies for a new location. Also, the city discovered that forcing the clinic to move could result in lawsuits that could take years to resolve.

Patty Wentz, spokewoman for the Oregon Health Authority, said the state doesn't have any legal ground to pull the permit.

The only "certified" survey submitted to the state shows the methadone clinic is 1,214 feet of walking distance from the day care center. She said the city's measurement wasn't a certified survey.

Esquivel received information from the Legislative Counsel Committee that indicates most court cases have determined that a drug-free zone extends 1,000 feet as the crow flies, but Wentz said state law is silent on the issue of how the distance would be measured.

Wentz said the cases cited by Esquivel refer to criminal drug behavior, not a clinic or health care facility legally dispensing medication.

"There are no grounds to pull the license," she said. "We wouldn't have any legal grounds to do it. This is a legally licensed health clinic."

Wentz said the state would face the same issue as the city if it were to challenge the legitimacy of the methadone clinic at this point.

Kim Sanderson, regional vice president with Allied Health, couldn't be reached for comment about the neighbor's concerns.

The clinic has agreed to erect a better fence that would separate the parking lot from the backyards of houses along Minnesota Avenue.

In addition, the clinic has agreed to hire a certified security guard to patrol the parking areas and prevent loitering and other bad behavior. The clinic has hired a real estate firm to search for a new location.

Neighbors have complained about finding needles in their backyards, and about patients playing loud music or fighting.


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