Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Rachel R. Basinger


MOUNT PLEASANT - Some Mount Pleasant residents are not happy with local
doctor Mamdouh El Attrache's announcement that he plans to open a new clinic
in the borough for the treatment of drug abusers.

El Attrache made the announcement during a Mount Pleasant Borough Council
meeting, stating he has applied for permits from the state and federal
governments. The clinic will be located in a strip mall that he owns at 20
Main St., and according to El Attrache, it will "help in the treatment of
drug abusers" and "will help to cure the disease of dependency."

Twenty-three people would be employed to provide psychotherapy, counseling
and rehabilitation at the clinic, but in addition to all of that, the
administering of methadone (a legal drug used to treat heroin and morphine
addicts) would also be incorporated into the treatment procedures at the

Terry Bretz, co-owner of the Country Cottage located across the street from
the proposed clinic, is unhappy about the idea but feels there's nothing she
can do. "I think people will do what they want to do regardless, but it's
probably not something that will enhance Mount Pleasant."

One woman who asked to remain anonymous expressed displeasure about the
opening of such a clinic in Mount Pleasant, especially because of its close
proximity to her residence.

"I don't understand why one should be put in the middle of a residential
area and depreciate the value of our property," she said. "That's why the
state came up with the 500-foot restriction."

She is talking about House Bill 1335, which amended the Pennsylvania
Municipalities Planning Code in 1999.

Under this legislation, the term methadone treatment facility is any
facility licensed by the department of health to use the drug methadone in
the treatment, maintenance or detoxification of persons.

It states: "a methadone treatment facility shall not be established or
operated within 500 feet of an existing school, public playground, public
park, residential housing area, child-care facility, church, meeting house
or other actual place of regularly slated religious worship established
prior to the proposed methadone treatment facility."

It added that the provisions should apply whether or not an occupancy permit
or certificate of use has been issued to the owner or operator of the
methadone treatment facility.

Although borough council President Michael Tabita is a little concerned
about the close proximity of the soccer fields at Willows Park, borough code
enforcement officer Ron Aldom is almost certain that the park is not within
500 feet of the clinic.

In fact, Aldom said that if there were anything at all that the clinic could
possibly be within 500 feet of, it would be the residential homes on Depot

"But that's just a very slight possibility," said Aldom, who contends that
he does not think there's anything the borough can do about stopping the
clinic from opening.

"It's sitting in about as true of a commercial zone as you can get," added
Aldom. "It's surrounded by commercially and industrially zoned areas, and if
it had to go somewhere, that's really the perfect place."

Even if it were determined the clinic was within 500 feet of a school,
playground, etc., there is a possibility that it could still open.

According to House Bill 1335, "a methadone treatment facility may be
established and operated closer than 500 feet to an existing school, public
playground, etc., if by majority vote, the governing body of the 'host'
municipality (in this case Mount Pleasant Borough Council) votes in favor of
the issuance of an occupancy permit or certificate of use for said facility
at such a location."

The bill also states that one or more public hearings regarding the proposed
facility must be held 14 days prior to the vote. All owners of real property
located within 500 feet of the proposed location should be provided written
notice of the public hearings at least 30 days before they are held.

Tabita is not sure if the subject of the proposed clinic will come up at
Monday night's council meeting, "unless there's an issue that needs to be
discussed that I'm not aware of right now." That meeting begins at 7 p.m. in
the borough building.

Since the council meeting where El Attrache announced his plans, he has not
been able to be reached for comment.
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