CHERRYFIELD (AP) – This small eastern Maine town is the latest battleground where residents are voicing opposition to a proposed methadone clinic.

Discovery House, a Providence, R.I., company with a network of 15 methadone clinics in five states – including three clinics in Maine – is planning to set up shop in Cherryfield – whether residents in the town of 1,157 like it or not.

At a meeting in late August, dozens of residents told Discovery House officials that Cherryfield isn’t the right place for a clinic that dispenses methadone to addicts to curb their craving for opium-based drugs such as heroin. Residents repeatedly told company officials: “We don’t want you!”

Despite the outcry, the company says it is proceeding with plans to locate a clinic in an empty professional building on Route 182 on the outskirts of town.

Townspeople wonder whether Discovery House is considering looking into other area towns, such as Machias 25 miles to the east, that can support a drug treatment facility with services such as a hospital, police department, counseling and job training opportunities.

“Small towns are constantly faced with new challenges as development moves up the coast from southern Maine,” said Lucy Witt, chairwoman of Cherryfield’s planning board. “We are facing new problems, and towns are struggling to respond in an appropriate way.”

Residents in several Maine cities and towns have objected in recent years when companies have proposed locating methadone clinics in their midst. But none has been as small as Cherryfield.

The town, which doesn’t have a police department, is little more than a crossroads with a blinking traffic signal. It has no zoning and few job opportunities, and the economy is hurting.

The locally owned hardware store and small grocery, where many went for coffee in the morning, abruptly closed its doors before Labor Day for lack of business.

Discovery House opened a clinic in Calais, a 1-hour drive away, in April 2005. It has 220 clients.

But unlike Cherryfield, Calais officials invited the company to locate a clinic there.

In Cherryfield, some residents fear that a clinic could attract drug dealers who might smell a weakness in the clients.

Many say the identified site for a clinic is inappropriate, being just two-tenths of a mile from Cherryfield Elementary School. Others say the daily influx of 200 patients into Cherryfield could be problematic.

The town’s four selectmen aren’t sure what to do. At a special meeting last week they considered a number of options.

They include enacting a six-month moratorium on building projects involving medical facilities, initiating a petition that states the town’s opposition or holding a nonbinding straw poll this month.

Rob Kornacki, Discovery House’s director of development, said the company is continuing the process of locating in Cherryfield. The company soon plans to file its license application with the state Office of Substance Abuse, he said.

Washington County Sheriff Joseph Tibbetts supports the idea of another methadone clinic in the county, although he has reservations about placing it so close to a school. The county’s drug problem, he said, has reached epidemic proportions.

“I don’t think there is a family in Washington County that has not been affected in one way or another by opiate addiction, mine included,” he said. “If there’s a family that hasn’t been affected, God love them.”



Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com


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