Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jan 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Contact:  491 Main St., PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329
Website: http://www.bangornews.com/
Author: Jeff Tuttle
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?136 (Methadone)

COUNCIL TO CONSIDER METHADONE REPORT; CRITICS SAY BANGOR UNPREPARED FOR CLINIC

BANGOR - City councilors tonight will consider the findings of a special 
committee formed to study the effects of a proposed methadone clinic on the 
city.

The Special Committee on Opiate Addiction issued its final report late last 
month amid some criticism that its recommendations did little to delay the 
opening of the controversial methadone clinic, which opponents contend will 
bring an influx of drug addicts and drug-related crime.

Mayor John Rohman said late last week that he expected the council to back 
the committee's findings that the clinic should open, but only after a 
number of conditions have been met.

"I think the council has voiced its support of the committee every chance 
it's had," Rohman said Friday. "What it comes down to is the ability to go 
ahead [with the clinic] is not controlled by the council. It's controlled 
by the state and Acadia [Hospital]."

Acadia Hospital applied to the state Office of Substance Abuse in February 
to open the methadone clinic, which would provide treatment to those 
addicted to heroin or other opiates such as prescription painkillers. State 
substance abuse officials pointed to the region's rising drug problem as 
the impetus for the clinic.

Like other opponents of the proposed clinic, Charlie Murray contends that 
it would likely draw addicts from outside the city limits.

"You'd have to be number than a pounded thumb to believe these people won't 
come to Bangor," Murray, a Bangor resident and member of Citizens Against 
Heroin, said Saturday. "But if nothing else, we've made Acadia do their 
homework, so even if we've lost, we've won."

News of the clinic sparked a sometimes-heated debate in the city, prompting 
several public hearings and the formation of the opiate committee, 
comprising three members each from the City Council and Acadia.

Among the conditions set forth by the committee is that a community 
advisory group be established to oversee the program's operation. The 
committee also suggested that the clinic not be licensed until hospital 
officials decide on a location  a prerequisite for state and federal 
licensing.

Acadia officials had proposed locating the clinic at the hospital's remote 
Indiana Avenue facility, but later agreed to find a different, temporary 
location after city representatives pressed for a more general medical 
setting, such as the Eastern Maine Healthcare Mall on Union Street or 
Acadia's main campus on Stillwater Avenue.

Hospital officials have not yet proposed a new site.

Acadia officials have estimated that once a location is found, a licensed 
clinic could open within four to six months.

Local police as well as the state's top federal prosecutor have argued for 
a longer delay, citing the need for additional drug agents to be in place 
before a clinic be allowed to open.

In the argument for a moratorium, a report signed by the heads of five 
local police departments cites the wording of a November referendum passed 
by Bangor voters. In that referendum, residents voted 7,511 to 6,014 in 
support of a delay until "local law enforcement has been given sufficient 
time to address the issue of opiate addiction through enforcement actions 
and education."

The opiate committee, while recommending  but having no control over  
more state funding for drug agents in the area, only tied the clinic's 
opening to Acadia and local police coming up with a policy to share 
information regarding drug-related crime.

Clinic supporters point out that state officials already have delayed the 
clinic's opening by one year by agreeing not to issue a license until this 
month.

City Councilor Patricia Blanchette, a member of the opiate committee, said 
Saturday she opposed a further delay.

"Could you imagine saying to a heart patient that we could treat you, but 
you're going to have to wait for two years?" said Blanchette, who stressed 
that she favored a general medical setting for the clinic. "We have a 
responsibility to these people who are here now."

The state's two other methadone clinics are located in Winslow and South 
Portland.

Tonight's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D