Home > All Posts > Laconia, New Hampshire Methadone Clinic Hit By Foes

Laconia, New Hampshire Methadone Clinic Hit By Foes

This is another article about the Laconia methadone clinic.

Backers Of Methadone Clinic Not Giving Up

By Gail Ober

November 27, 2008    The director of development for the methadone clinic that hopes to open in Laconia said Wednesday his company still hopes to locate in the city, despite the negative sentiment expressed by many city residents at a public forum in City Hall this past Monday.

Joseph Sullivan attended Monday’s meeting and said he had originally planned on just listening but was prompted to speak when one woman tried to link Metro-Treatment of New Hampshire with large corporations having nothing to do with his parent company, Colonial Management Group, L.P.

His attempts to ameliorate local fears associated with methadone treatment centers fell on deaf ears and those in attendance met his comments with derision and sneers.

“What I heard was people reacting from fear,” said Sullivan, who said his company had been researching Laconia for nearly a year and believes the city is in need of a methadone clinic.

“Why would I come here if there isn’t a need?” asked Sullivan, whose company operates three other clinics in the state.

Meanwhile, not only is there local opposition to a methadone clinic in Laconia, especially in the O’Shea Industrial Park, it appears deed restrictions and covenants may restrict permitted activity in the industrial park to light industry only.

According to John Veazey, who is one of he Directors of the Laconia Industrial Development Corp. that originally paved the way for the industrial park in 1960, it and Keewaydin Shores Inc. agreed to a series of covenants, one of which restricted any use in the park “to be for industrial use and shall be developed for light industrial use.”

“Whether or not the Laconia Planning Department gives its OK, that restriction is still in effect,” said Veazey, who is the only member of the original LIDC board still living and said the then-Belknap County Commissioners insisted on the covenant before they sold the land to the LIDC.

“They didn’t want a shopping plaza or anything like that and we agreed to it,” Veazey continued.

Veazey, who was elected to the Legislation earlier this month, said he recalls an instance in the 1960s when the industrial park was in its infancy that the Laconia Clinic considered expanding into the park but its request was denied.

Metro-Treatment does not own the property at Primrose Drive. It is owned by Robert Maher, who is the principal in Leona LLC and who lists his address as a post office box in Moultonborough.

Maher was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but Sullivan said he was directed to the industrial park by employees in the Laconia Planning Office when he made his first inquiries in the beginning of the year.

“We didn’t just throw a dart at a map. I approached the city and asked where I should go,” Sullivan continued.

He said his company prefers to locate their clinics in light industrial areas because communities have typically resisted having them on major arteries. He said this concept also works well for clients who prefer some anonymity when seeking their treatment.

“We were approached by many building owners,” said Sullivan, adding he has had three realtor’s contact him since Monday’s meeting with suggestions of buildings he may wish to consider.

Not everyone is opposed to a methadone treatment clinic in the city and a few of them were at Monday’s meeting.

Nancy Bacon was one of the first who spoke, telling the audience that people with opiate addictions “are already here. They’re your friends and neighbors.”

“We should allow our citizens to get the help they need,” Bacon said.

Kiel Ackerson cautioned people to not allow their emotions to interfere with their reasoning, saying “the real important thing is our citizens are taken care of.”

Other supporters of locating a clinic in or around Laconia are Kelly Untiet, the public relations director of Genesis Behavioral Health, and Horizons Counseling Executive Director Jackie Abikoff.

While both agencies provide counseling services to, among others, substance abusers, neither can dispense methadone – the drug most often used to treat opiate addiction.

For Swanzey Police Chief Richard V.C. Busick IV, whose community gave Metro-Treatment the permits to open a clinic just over two years ago, the clinic has been a good neighbor.

“We have seen no spike in loitering or burglaries,” said Busick, who said the Swanzey clinic is in a residential-and-commercially zoned area along Rout 10 on the outskirts of town.

“I’m sure the immediate neighbors aren’t happy about the location, but there haven’t been any problems,” said the chief, who attended the Connecticut School of Pharmacy for five years. “The clients pay their own way and are working people who have a drug problem.”

He said heroin and opiate addictions are a big problem in Cheshire County and “the reality is that it is here.”

He said the clinic initially wished to locate in Keene, where many residents opposed it like many of Laconia’s residents. He said they came to Swanzey and took over a building that had been a “constant problem to my apartment” and “redid it from top to bottom.”

“I think it improved the neighborhood,” he said.

As for any additional problems for local police, Busick said there have been a couple fender-bender accidents in the parking lot and a couple of domestic disturbances – both of which can and do happen anywhere.

“I admit we’ve had a lot of false alarms at the site,” said Busick, who added that the Metro-Treatment staff are quick to respond to reset the alarms, but credits the false alarms to a “very sophisticated alarm system.”

“They addressed all my questions about delivery and security and they have been good neighbors,” Busick said.

“The biggest component of what we do is counseling,” Sullivan said. “Yes, we give people medications, but we try to tell then there’s a better world out there.”

As to laconia, Sullivan hopes to put a clinic in the city.

“We will continue to pursue Laconia. It makes sense to,” he said. “We are very good at what we do.”




This article goes with the one I posted earlier below.

Methadone Clinic Draws More Ire And Fire



By Gail Ober

November 20, 2008  Laconia, New Hampshire    As City Planner Shanna Saunders Inches closer to deciding if a Florida_based methadone treatment center will open in the industrial park, more and more residents are voicing their opposition to the project.

Kim Weeks lives on Old North Main Street and, as well as encouraging her neighbors to sign a petition against the Metro Treatment of New Hampshire, she has placed a sign in front of her home.

“My opposition is three-fold: as a parent, as a resident and a business proposition,” said the mother of three young boys who said her understanding of the clinic is that it primarily treats heroin addicts.

Weeks said her research shows there is a direct increase in crime in areas with similar treatment facilities and if she were a business professional considering a business in the industrial park, she wouldn’t “want to subject her employees or customers to that clientele.”

Other neighbors have already circulated a petition against the clinic and submitted it to the Laconia City Council at its last meeting, prompting Mayor Matthew Lahey to schedule a public information session and for Ward 1 Councilor Greg Knytych, whose ward is home to the proposal, to voice his opposition.

“That area is surrounded by a lot of children who walk to school,” Knytych said.

Though Knytych agrees treatment should be available to those who need it, he said his understanding of the proposal is to “provide these services to those living north of Laconia. If there’s already one in Concord, let then go further north instead of building it here.”

Buy Knytych is also correct when he said the City Council, other than as a vehicle for disseminating public opinion, can do very little to stop the clinic.

That decision is one that will be made solely by Saunders in her capacity as city planner.

She said the proposal involves a three-acre site on Primrose Drive previously occupied by a tool company. The city zoning ordinances require only a change of use from light manufacturing to medical professional because both are already permitted uses within the industrial-zoned area.

But that alone doesn’t necessarily mean the proposal is allowable. Saunders is required to consider other factors such as whether or not the building meets acceptable fire codes ]matter for the code enforcement officer], and whether the business will adversely affect traffic flow, parking and pedestrian safety, as sidewalks do not reach all the way to the site.

Saunders said Wednesday she had requested and received some traffic information from Colonial Management Group, the parent company of Metro Treatment, but has not completed her review of what they sent.

Their information said the treatment center expects to serve 17 patients an hour in its first year, 25 per hour in the second and 200 per hour in its third year with activity leveling off after that. What it doesn’t say is how many physicians will be seeing patients.

Colonial Management Director of Development Joseph Sullivan said further that “we don’t anticipate many patients walking to our facility, in most cases our patients will car-pool… The industrial zone located on or off Lexington Drive has unfortunately experienced layoffs, job loss and business closure, which have lessened impact to the traffic volume.”

According to a fact sheet issued by the Office of National Drug Control, methadone is a “rigorously well-tested medication that is safe and efficacious for the treatment of narcotic withdrawal and dependence.

“Methadone does not impair cognitive functions. It has no adverse effects on mental capability, intelligence or employability and is not sedating or intoxicating. Nor does it interfere with ordinary activities such as driving a car or operating machinery.”

For 30 years it has been used to treat a opiate addiction, including heroin, oxycodone and percocet, by stabilizing carvings and helping addicts change their behavior and discontinue their use, said the report.

Genesis Behavior Health Care Public Relations Director Kelly Untiet said about 25% of the patients treated for mental disorders by her facility are addicted to heroin.

Untiet said Genesis cannot dispense methadone and she sees a need for some treatment services in the Lakes Region.

At Horizons Counseling Center in Guilford, Executive Director Jackie Abikoff agrees.

Abikoff said the majority of patients she sees are not heroin addicts but are people addicted to some form of pain medication.

“Opiate addiction is very difficult,” Abikoff sad. “Long term addicts experience changes in the brain chemistry.”

While she didn’t want to comment specifically on Metro Treatment or any other individual group, Abikoff said methadone programs are specifically designed to treat addiction and “a methadone replacement therapy option is a very useful tool.”

“Since it is not available here, it’s hard,” she continued. “We provide the counseling component but the additional component of medication would seem to give them a better chance of recovery.”

Abikoff’s primary concern with a private treatment facility is the “for profit” nature of their programs.

“It changes the mandate,” she said.

But whether the city can deny the permit is also a matter for Saunders to consider.

In 2002, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the city of Covington, Ky., saying the “city’s denial of a zoning permit to a methadone clinic violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.”

After a prolonged battle, in 2006 the city of Rockland, Maine withdrew its opposition to a private methadone clinic after the city was sued by three heroin addicts who claimed the refusal violated their rights under the ADA.

At the tie City Councilor Hal Perry who as a private resident said in 2004 the clinic’s location would “urn the gateway to Rockland into the ‘gateway to hell'” voted for the clinic, saying the city “couldn’t afford to fight the lawsuit.”

Rockland City Attorney Kevin Beal said Wednesday that three months ago Turning Tides Inc. opened its clinic along Route 1 in what he described, “as a busy artery at the edge of the city with vehicular access.”

Beal said this was not the original proposed location, but he said there are some residences nearby but no schools. To date, he said he has gotten no complaints.

For the residents of Laconia’s north end, the proximity of the proposed clinic to the largely residential neighborhood along North Main Street is a big problem.

“In my opinion, Ward 1 is not a good place for something like this,” Knytych said.

Knytych said his understanding is that local mental health agencies provide transportation to and from a clinic in Concord also owned by Colonial Management Group.

He said he gets ” three to 10 emails a day against the proposed clinic and not just in Ward 1. “they are glad of my efforts and want to know how to help.”

Knytych also said some of his research indicates crime rates in Manchester and Concord rose after clinics opened in those cities.

While Police Chief Mike Moyer said Wednesday he has made many inquiries and has done a lot of research, he will wait until Monday’s forum to speak publicly.

“We have had methadone problems in the city resulting in many deaths,” said Moyer, whose methadone task force has had considerable success reducing methadone deaths in the year since its inception.

Moyer also said methadone, used properly, has helped a lot of people, but it seems “almost like trading one addiction for another.”

“This much I’ll say. I’ve yet to receive one phone call or email in support of this clinic,” he said.

The public forum is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Room 200 a of City Hall.


Here we go again!!!! Ahhhhh…



By Gail Ober

November 11, 2008 Laconia, NH. – Local citizens against the proposed methadone clinic in the industrial park presented a petition to the City Council Monday night expressing their opposition and prompting the council to schedule a public information session on November 24.

North Main Street resident Jonathan Muller led the community comments by presenting the petition that he said was signed by 72 city residents.

“I just started last night and I got this many signatures,” Muller said. “We wanted to make sure our voices are heard.”

Metro Treatment of New Hampshire, an affiliate of Colonial Management Group of Orlando, Fla., hopes to convert the former Tangent Tool Building at 72 Primrose Drive into an outpatient substance abuse clinic. The company currently operates three other clinics in the state – in Concord, Keene and Manchester.

Because the proposal is a change of use, the proposal does not need to go before the city planning or zoning boards and it is one that can be made unilaterally by City Planner Shanna Saunders, who has yet to make her decision.

“It really is an administrative call,” said Mayor Matthew Lahey when pressed by Carolyn Muller about the decision.

“I am vehemently opposed to this,” Mark Bailey said. “It’s too close to residences. They need help, but no help in my back yard.”

“I think it’s very important people voice their opinions,” said Ward 5 Councilor Bob Hamel, who said he personally opposes the clinic. “I think people really need to stand up.”

Lahey said Police Chief Moyer visited other clinics in the state and he would ask him to be at the public hearing.

Moyer has led the charge against methadone usage in the city that has been blames for eight overdose deaths last year.

Just last week, he hosted a presentation from an anti-methadone group and has stepped up the enforcement and prosecution of methadone dealers.

Moyer said his department began taking apparent drug overdose cases much more seriously after the wave of eight methadone deaths in 2007.

Starting with one of the latter deaths, that of Raymond Delucca, 20, of Laconia, on October 23, 2007, Moyer said police began treating every overdose as a suspicious death and a crime scene so that evidence would be preserved and witnesses questioned immediately so that culpability, if there is any, can be determined.  (Why is that they never speak of all the people helped at methadone clinics?!? There are far many who get their lives back on track, than overdose!!)

The Delucca case sparked the formation of an interagency task force and the man, Jeremy Copp, 20, of Laconia, who gave Delucca the drug was recently sentenced to serve 15 years in state prison.

The man Copp bought the methadone from, Edward Costello, 55, formerly of 158B School Street, Laconia, pleaded guilty in May to sale of a narcotic drug (methadone) – death resulting and was sentenced to 15-40 years in the New Hampshire State Prison. Costello’s wife and daughter also were found culpable in Delucca’s death and are serving lesser sentences.

While police efforts to tackle the problem appear to be working – the city has seen only one methadone death in 2008 – Moyer has not spoken publicly about whether or not he favors locating a clinic in Laconia.

Other communities including Conway and Sanford, Maine, have shot down similiar attempts to locate methadone treatment clinics in their communities. In both cases, toen councils and selectmen have led the charge against the proposals after local residents expressed opposition.

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  1. November 13, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I have written to this reporter and recieved a thoughtful response. Lets see if a followup story results!

  2. November 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Please write to this reporter and chastise her for not offering both sides and for not stating clearly that the methadone overdoses were NOT the result of clinic patient methadone!

    I am going to write to the police chief and the reporter.

    Sanford Maine DID not shoot down the idea of a clinic, they are just making ordinances that say where they can go.

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