New location, same fear

Objections to Medford's methadone clinic reflect a lack of understanding

Medford's methadone clinic has found a new home, which should satisfy the neighbors who pushed it away from its present location over a technicality. Now the clinic and its clients are encountering opposition from its prospective new neighbors.

The overreaction reflects a lack of understanding among the general public of the important service a methadone clinic provides.

The clinic, now situated on East Main Street, must move by Aug. 1 because state officials discovered it lies 103 feet too close to a day-care center after neighbors complained. State law requires 1,000 feed of separation. No problems have ever been reported regarding the day-care center.

City officials agreed to let the clinic continue operating until August 2013 while its operators found a new site.

The new location is on Murphy Road near Rogue Regional Medical Center, in an area filled with medical offices. The immediate area is not primarily residential, but there is an apartment complex nearby.

Fearful neighbors already are raising objections. One said he didn't want "people like that" near him.

"People like that" are people who happen to be addicted to opiates, including heroin, but also including prescription painkillers. They come from all walks of life.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate that prevents the painful, debilitating symptoms of withdrawal without the sedative or euphoric effects — the "high" — of heroin or other opiates. Carefully controlled doses of the drug allow a user to hold a job, drive a car and function in society.

"People like that" are carefully monitored. They are required to undergo frequent drug screening, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and state authorities provide oversight.

The clinic provides other medications as well, and counseling to help clients quit all drug use.

Oregon has the highest rate of illicit painkiller use in the country.

Multiple studies involving thousands of users have shown that methadone treatment programs reduce crime, illegal drug use, needle-sharing, HIV transmission — all the negative consequences of opiate use. If the methadone clinic did not exist, its 500 clients would be more likely to turn to illegal drug use and commit crimes to support their habits.

Potential neighbors should ask themselves if they would prefer to see more people like that.

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