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Neighbors Speak Out Against Proposed Methadone Clinic In Northeast Philadelphia

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By Syma Chowdhry, Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dozens of concerned residents of a Northeast Philadelphia community gathered Tuesday evening as they continue a two-year battle against a proposed methadone clinic they don’t want in the neighborhood.

Neighbors are using harsh words to describe a proposed methadone clinic called The Healing Way.

Many, like Milt Martelack, of Mayfair Town Watch, just want to “not have to endure the behavior of a junkie that’s coming to get a free high.”

Dozens of people in the area who share Martelack’s concern were protesting Tuesday at the proposed location at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street.

Many Holmesburg residents just do not want to see it open.

“We have daycares, churches, Holmesburg Christian School, a library,” said long-time resident Betty Potts, describing what would be near the clinic. “I realize people may need help but this is not the spot.”

Neighbors claim the owners of the proposed clinic are in the business just to make a profit and not help people. They also argue there are already two nearby clinics within a mile of each other in the area and a lack of parking and accessibility to public transportation at this proposed spot. Local officials were on hand to show their support including Councilman Bobby Henon and State Representative Kevin Boyle.

“This is a residential community. Nearly 1,000 people live within a two or three block radius of where we are right now. It’s a bad location,” says State Representative Kevin Boyle, who is speaking out after a judge overturned a zoning board’s decision to block the clinic.

“What her decision says is that any location that is under C2 zoning classifications, which is all bars and restaurants and most medical offices, can operate as a methadone clinic,” Boyle adds.

“We here are not opposed to treatment,” Boyle said. “We want to see people with drug addiction, who are in the clutches of heroin addiction, get help. But there’s a proper place for that.”

People in the neighborhood say the clinic will be detrimental to their quality of life.

“The negatives outweigh the positives by an exceptional margin,” says Martelack. “We have a couple daycares, we have established businesses here.”

The owners of the barber shop next door posted a sign voicing their opposition.

“I don’t want it here at all. I think it would affect all of our businesses,” says employee Tammi Larsen.

Mark Besdun runs a methadone clinic off of Roosevelt Boulevard near Welsh Road.

“Methadone treatment, when done properly, really does work,” he says.

However, he also says that between his clinic and another that’s opening up nearby, there is no need for one more.

“I would hate to see the Northeast become a big clutter center for lots of clinics,” Besden says.

Opponents say they fear the clinic will attract crime.

“They’re looking for money to get high. And obviously me, being a woman and walking out of a barber shop with cash in my pocket, I’m going to be a target,” says Larsen.

This back and forth is now in Commonwealth Court. Neighbors, with the help of attorneys Dawn Tancredi and Phillip McFillin, filed to appeal a Common Pleas judge’s decision to restore The Healing Way’s permit, originally revoked by the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which the attorneys argue could set a precedent for similar situations to occur in other neighborhoods.

A community meeting for further discussion is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday July 15 at Lincoln High.

On the other side, Carl Primavera, the attorney representing The Healing Way, responded with the following statement:

“We are pleased that the judge agreed with our position. The result was just and in conformity with state and federal law. We hope the protestants reconsider their opposition and listen to the voice of reason – that people in their neighborhood are suffering from addiction and deserve the right to be treated for this illness.”

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