LEWISTON — Local officials are not the first to have doubts about methadone clinics in their town, said Bob Potter, vice president of development for Massachusetts-based Community Substance Abuse Centers.
"But that's our job, to talk to staff, to talk to neighbors and members of the community," Potter told city councilors and members of the city's Planning Board on Tuesday night.
The company has applied for a city license to open the first-ever Lewiston-based methadone clinic at 18 Mollison Way, near the Sparetime Recreation bowling alley.
On Tuesday night, they tried to explain their business and the nature of methadone treatment to city officials. The matter is scheduled to go before the Planning Board in February — either Feb. 14 or Feb. 28, according to city officials. Then the matter goes to the City Council for two public hearings.
Tuesday's workshop meeting was a short seminar on the way the business handles its methadone program.
Methadone is used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin and OxyContin. The company operates 12 clinics in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a 13th at 2300 Congress St. in Portland.
Jennifer Minthorn, program director of the Portland clinic, said the company's program has been successful in helping addicts improve their lives.
According to the company's statistics, employment rates for the company's patients typically went from 45 percent to 60 percent after their first year of treatment. Homelessness among patients dropped from 2.6 percent to 0.67 percent and arrests went from 14 percent to 4.7 percent.
"They are getting the resources that they need," Minthorn said. "I think that really speaks to the type of impact we have on their lives."
Potter said the Lewiston facility would be heavily regulated by multiple state and federal agencies. In addition, the company hosts meetings with neighbors, residents and local officials twice each year to discuss any problems or complaints.
Councilors asked questions about the company's methods, funding and security measures. Chief Executive Officer Matt Davis said the Lewiston clinic's fees would be paid by individual patients or by MaineCare and that the patients are carefully controlled. Staff is highly trained and access to the building is controlled and monitored by multiple video cameras.
But officials devoted little time to the company's application and Lewiston's licensing rules. Lewiston requires substance-abuse treatment centers to get business licenses from the city. Licenses must be approved and reviewed each year by the City Council. The ordinance allows substance-abuse treatment centers to be built only if they are a minimum of 1,000 feet from churches, schools, parks and day care centers or facilities.
Linda Glass, owner of Pediatric Associates at 33 Mollison Way, said after the meeting that the list of exemptions should include doctors' offices.
"The spirit of this ordinance was to guard the children's safety," Glass said. "While they mention, schools, churches, parks and day care, the theme is kids. Well, this is going into one of the most child-rich areas of the city."