NIMBY: Stack, Boyle Bills Toughen Regulations for Proposed Methadone Clinics in Pennsylvania

Standing outside the site of a controversial, proposed methadone treatment facility in the Holmesburg community of Northeast Philadelphia, state Sen. Mike Stack and state Rep. Kevin Boyle announced October 13th their legislation that would tighten loose regulations currently in place for these facilities.

“We as a community were recently blindsided by the Healing Way’s plans to open a methadone clinic here. Fortunately, we have very active citizens who took action when we learned the truth,” said Stack (D-5th dist.). “The public deserves adequate notice and a chance to respond when a drug treatment center wants to open a facility in their community, and our legislation gives residents a voice in the approval process.”

“The proposed facility in my district would have a significant impact on the neighborhood. Many community leaders and residents have come together to fight against the proposed clinic,” said Boyle (D-172nd dist.). “This legislation would provide the tools necessary to fight back against such a situation happening elsewhere in Philadelphia and across the state.”

Stack’s legislation (Senate Bill 1277) and Boyle’s identical legislation (House Bill 1885) include four key provisions that the lawmakers say will ensure community involvement when a clinic is proposed:

  • They would require a public hearing for all proposed narcotics treatment facilities. Written notices would be given out 30 days prior to the hearing to all property owners or lessees located within 500 feet of the proposed facility.
  • The owner of the proposed facility would be required to receive approval from the local district attorney.
  • The proposed facility would be required to have adequate parking before it could be approved by the Department of Health.
  • The Department of Health would provide written notice to all locally elected public officials at the city, state and federal level of the location immediately upon receipt of the application. Notice would also be given to the Single County Authorities, which is the agency responsible for providing drug and alcohol addiction treatment to Pennsylvanians who have government-sponsored health coverage.

The bills were drafted in response to a recent dispute between the community and the Healing Way, which wants to open a methadone treatment facility at 7900 Frankford Ave.

Residents and nearby businesses claim they were told Healing Way was opening a doctor’s office or medical facility, not a methadone treatment center. They claim there was insufficient notice to file a petition opposing it to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Philadelphia Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski (D-6th dist.) said her office investigated the property and found that a permit was obtained through the Department of Licenses and Inspections “over the counter,” meaning the applicant applied for it in person at L&I headquarters in downtown Philadelphia and received it without having to post a zoning notice or make the surrounding residents aware.

Krajewski hired an attorney and appealed the permit, funding both the appeals court fee and rented buses for community members to attend the hearing in opposition.

Krajewski applauded the Holmesburg Civic Association and surrounding residents for jumping into action when word of a proposed methadone clinic circulated the neighborhoods.

“A methadone clinic does not belong in such a heavy populated area, it should not operate so close to houses and local retail businesses that make up our Frankford Avenue corridor,” said Krajewski. “Our constituents of Mayfair and Holmesburg and any other residential neighborhood for that matter do not want this in their backyard. It belongs in a hospital facility setting.”

“The community has legitimate concerns with the Healing Way, including its proximity to an elementary school, daycare and church and the lack of parking. They were most concerned, however, that the Healing Way did not reveal its true intensions,” Stack said. “The community should have direct input. Our legislation accomplishes that.”

“When you look at the facts, it is clear that 7900 Frankford Avenue is not a good location for a methadone clinic, and the public should have been given the opportunity to address those concerns,” Boyle said.

Source: Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack – October 13, 2011