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MailTribune.com
  • METHADONE CLINIC

    New home for methadone clinic riles some

    Some neighbors are worried about building's proximity to kids, others are philosophical
  • A methadone clinic, which is being forced to move because it is too close to a day-care center, has found a new home at 777 Murphy Road near two pediatric centers and next to some unhappy neighbors.
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  • A methadone clinic, which is being forced to move because it is too close to a day-care center, has found a new home at 777 Murphy Road near two pediatric centers and next to some unhappy neighbors.
    "I'm not comfortable with that at all," said Glen Still, a 40-year-old resident who was with his 4-year-old stepson. "I don't want that kind of people around me."
    The Oregon Department of Health and Human Services approved the relocation application from CRC Health Oregon Inc. on April 30.
    Medford police have reviewed the location and determined no day care centers are within 1,000 feet, a requirement under state law.
    The existing clinic, operated by CRC subsidiary Allied Health Services at 837 E. Main St., serves 500 clients a day who are recovering addicts. The clinic opened in 2008.
    After a citizen complaint, city officials discovered in 2012 that the clinic was within 1,000 feet of the Sunshine Day Care Center on Portland Avenue, a violation of Oregon Revised Statute 430.590.
    The city demanded the clinic cease operations last year, but a compromise deal was struck allowing the clinic to continue operations until Aug. 1, 2013.
    The new location is surrounded by other medical-related business, including Southern Oregon Pediatrics across the street and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. The 101-unit Mariposa Townhouse Apartments are behind it.
    Still, who lives in the Mariposa complex, said his 15-year-old daughter waits for the school bus every morning on Murphy, so he will be concerned about her safety.
    Still said he moved to the neighborhood because it provides a safe environment for his family.
    "I'm not happy about this at all," he said.
    Allied Health Services plans to spend $270,000 on tenant improvements in the 8,832-square-foot building, according to a permit filed Wednesday at the Medford Building Department. Allied plans to remodel 2,560 square feet of the building.
    Kim Sanderson, regional vice president of Allied, stated in an email, "Allied Health Services is excited about our move into our new location. We anticipate relocating by late summer/early fall. We are looking forward to continuing our relationships with community partners and offering services to families in need in the Medford area."
    Rep. Sal Esquivel, a Medford Republican who joined other neighbors in opposing the clinic's present location, which is not far from his home, said he's relieved to hear that a solution may be in the offing.
    "You have to have the clinic somewhere," he said.
    Esquivel said he was frustrated the state relied on a survey prepared for the clinic that determined it was 1,214 feet from the nearest day care center.
    A straight-line measurement taken later determined the distance was 897 feet. However, state law is ambiguous about whether the distance should be measured as the crow flies or by walking distance.
    As a result, Esquivel sponsored House Bill 3434, which changes the language in the state law to define the distance measured as a straight line from a clinic to a day-care center.
    "Now it's crystal clear," he said.
    The bill has been passed in the House and is going to the Senate.
    Dr. Jim Shames, medical director of Jackson County Health and Human Services, said Oregon has the highest rate of illicit painkiller use in the country, so treatment facilities such as Allied's clinic are crucial.
    Many patients start out taking painkillers, but, in some cases, graduate to heroin because it is a cheaper alternative, Shames said. In other cases, patients start out taking heroin and become addicted.
    In addition to methadone, the clinic offers other medications such as buprenorphine, which is a newer, safer alternative, but also more expensive. Another drug, naltrexone, is being used more frequently to make sure patients avoid drugs altogether.
    "If you try to use drugs, it will make you sick," Shames said.
    Allied also offers counseling to help wean patients off the drugs.
    Both federal and state officials provide regulatory oversight, Shames said.
    "The DEA will drop by anytime to look over the records," he said. Patients also are subject to frequent urine drug screens.
    Neighbors and visitors near the Murphy Road location of the clinic expressed different views about having a methadone clinic in their neighborhood.
    Henrietta Willingham, manager of the Mariposa apartments, said she's very uncomfortable with the idea of a methadone clinic so close.
    "Pretty soon, you will get them hanging out in the shrubs over there," she said.
    Willingham said that of the 101 apartments in her complex, she has only one vacancy. The popularity of the complex, with its well maintained landscaping, would be jeopardized by the clinic, she said.
    "I think it will affect the people who would want to come here," she said.
    Mary Brooks, an 83-year-old who lives a block and a half from the clinic, said she's had family members who suffered from addiction problems and understands the need to help them.
    "For goodness sake, they need help," she said. "God wants them cured. The reason they get hooked on this stuff is because of Satan."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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