Methadone: A Flicker Of Light In The Dark

Methadone: A Flicker Of Light In The Dark

To provide a better understanding of the very important role methadone plays in the treatment of addiction.
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 UPDATE TO PREVIOUSLY POSTED ARTICLE: "Right, Wrong And Reality": Hearing Ends In Methadone Ban, A Promise To Appeal

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PostSubject: UPDATE TO PREVIOUSLY POSTED ARTICLE: "Right, Wrong And Reality": Hearing Ends In Methadone Ban, A Promise To Appeal   Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:59 am

"Right, Wrong And Reality": Hearing Ends In Methadone Ban, A Promise To Appeal

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter

After some sound and some fury at Thursday’s public hearing on Dade’s anti-methadone ordinance, the County Commission’s special called meeting that immediately followed ended as expected: Commissioners voted unanimously to finalize the ordinance.

This was the second reading of the ordinance, which was initially presented at the commission’s regular March meeting and which County Attorney Robin Rogers had since pruned with some severity. The original 26 pages had been reduced to one and a half, which minus the whereases, definitions and penalties boiled down to one sentence:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to establish, own or operate a business which has as its purpose the sale or distribution of the controlled substance Methadone within the unincorporated areas of Dade County.”

A second section of the ordinance that forbids landfills and hazard waste disposal facilities was dealt with separately as Part B, and was equally terse.

But Melissa Hancock, who with husband Scott hopes to open a methadone treatment clinic in Wildwood, made it clear that she had not yet begun to fight. “I needed the ordinance tonight to pass tonight before I can actually go through with my appeal,” she said, interviewed immediately after passage of the measure.

Asked what the next step was, Ms. Hancock said she was unfamiliar with the legal process. “The attorney takes care of all that,” she said.

She declined to affirm or deny whether the gentleman accompanying her at the hearing was in fact her attorney, and neither did that individual consent to identify himself when buttonholed later in the hall.

Ms. Hancock, a resident of Rossville who says she worked at a methadone clinic in Walker County for nine years, addressed the public on her own behalf during the hearing.

“There’s right, there’s wrong, and there’s reality,” she told the audience. What she and her husband were doing was right, she said, passing the ordinance was wrong – “And the reality of the situation is my husband and I will appeal this ordinance and overall, hopefully, open a treatment facility in Dade County,” she concluded.

She said the American with Disabilities Acts prohibits counties from discriminating against methadone clinics and against patients seeking help from them. “Under state and federal law, the county cannot legally keep this clinic from opening,” she said.

But Ms. Hancock also appealed directly to the audience’s sympathies: “What I need the public to understand is that methadone is not a bad thing,” she said. “I’m sure if we were all honest with ourselves, each of us has a family member, friend or neighbor in need of such a facility.”

She said she and her husband would give back to the community, providing drug awareness education in the schools to prevent new addictions.

The audience, by and large, wasn’t having any. Sheriff Patrick Cannon, speaking first, did not make any bones that in his opinion methadone was, too, a bad thing: “There’s proven fact that methadone is killing people,” he said. “This is a money-making project, folks.”

He said methadone, the use of which as a painkiller has since 1998 exploded from thousands to millions of prescriptions yearly, was the fastest-growing cause of narcotics deaths. “It may help some, but it’s killing a lot more,” he said.

Wildwood businessman Wes Hixson took the podium to express sentiments that have been heard before in the community’s gut-reaction rejection of methadone not just this time but 18 years ago when a similar facility was proposed within the Trenton city limits: “This clinic would bring an influx of unknown heroin addicts into our community,” he said. “It’s my opinion that these drug addicts will commit new crimes in our community.”

But he said the issue was also about money – “I look at this from a realistic view as well” – asking listeners what having a methadone clinic next door would do to their property values.

“It’s pretty evident that you and your husband are going to expire your legal avenues, which you’re entitled to do, to try to force this down the people of this county’s throat,” he told Ms. Hancock. “I will help my county and I will solicit the help of my fellow Dade Countians to raise the money necessary to fight this issue with the hardest battle that we can raise the funds to do.”

His fellow Dade Countians gave this oration a round of applause, and one, Dade’s most visible animal welfare advocate, Ann Brown, chose that moment to seize the microphone for her own crack at Ms. Hancock. Ms. Brown told Ms. Hancock to stay out of the schools and to go back to Rossville. “I don’t want you in this county,” she said.

District 3 Commissioner Robert Goff, who said he spoke on his behalf rather than as an elected official, quoted statistics from LaFayette law enforcement naming methadone as one of the most abused substances figuring in drug-related deaths; and citizen Mary Ann O’Neill told the audience her son had in fact died last February of a methadone overdose.

Her son was not a patient at a methadone clinic but presumably had gotten the drug from someone who was, said Ms. O’Neill. “So many people are going to those clinics, you can sit out there and watch them come out and swap the methadone for whatever they want,” she said. “Methadone can destroy families and lives.”

Only one citizen took to the mike on the other side. Nurse Betty Bradford warned that doctors routinely wrote prescriptions for narcotics for symptoms that might or might not justify them, and thus anyone might develop an addiction and need help kicking it.

“If you think for one minute keeping this clinic out of the county is going to keep drugs out of this county, if you think it’s going to keep our children from taking drugs, you’re wrong,” she said. “You’re dead wrong.”

She said her own child had developed a drug problem while attending Dade County schools.

Contacted for comment about whether the methadone ordinance would hold up to an appeal, local attorney John Emmett declined to give a legal pronouncement but was more forthcoming with personal opinions. “I just don’t understand why folks are all agitated about this,” he said.

Emmett said a methadone clinic was a medical facility, not a bar or marijuana distribution center. He compared it to Lookout Mountain Community Services, whose patients may include sufferers of drug addiction, and which may prescribe them medications to treat it. “It wouldn’t bother me if a methadone clinic opened up next door to my office,” he said. “It wouldn’t bother me if one opened next door to my church.”

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