By Alison Knopf
This summer, Bay Area Addiction Research and Treatment (BAART) sued the city of Concord, California after a three-year effort to site its methadone clinic there. Amitai Schwartz represented BAART and BAART’s owner, BayMark Health Services.
It is a classic case; everything seemed to be moving forward (with some hitches, of course), and after a few years a site was located. Then the neighbors heard about it. They protested, and local officials caved to the popular pressure.
The lawsuit requests an injunction against the city and anyone succeeding or working with it from prohibiting the use of the location─2152-58 Solano Way─as a methadone treatment clinic. It also requests costs and attorneys’ fees.
The city’s economic development office allowed the use of the facility at the location, and classified it as a medical office. However, city planners then reclassified it as a medical “clinic,” a use that is not allowed in a commercial and mixed-use zoning district.
BAART then went looking for other spots, found one that did allow a medical “clinic,” and began paying rent at the site in April. In November of 2017, however, NIMBY (not in my back yard) took over the official process, and residents didn’t want the facility near them. At the same time, the city’s economic development office decided the center should be a “social service facility,” which requires an additional permit.
BAART Appealed; Negotiations With the City Fell Apart
The lawsuit─like others involving NIMBY─is based on the state’s incorporation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the lawsuit, BAART charges the city with changing the classification of the facility, with the intention of violating the rights of people with disabilities. Under the ADA, patients seeking or in treatment at Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) have a protected disability.
BAART already has two other OTPs in Contra Costa County, where Concord is located. One of them, in Antioch, lost a legal fight to prevent the clinic from locating there in the 1990s.
The case was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and is called BAART Programs, Inc., BayMark Health services, Inc., and Addiction Research and Treatment, Inc. vs. City of Concord and Andrea Ouse (who changed the designation to “social services facility” after residents protested the siting).
“Under California law it is unlawful to discriminate because of disability or the perception that a person is disabled,” the lawsuit states. “The patients who would be treated at the BAART clinic are disabled within the meaning” of state code.
For a Contra Costa County report that found more treatment is needed, go to http://www.cc-courts.org/civil/docs/grandjury/1806_The_Opioid_Crisis.pdf.