Home > All Posts > Two Sue Berwyn For Rejecting Methadone Clinic

Two Sue Berwyn For Rejecting Methadone Clinic

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-berwyn-methadone-26nov26,0,2580340.story

By Joseph Ruzich

November 26, 2008  Chicago  Four months after Berwyn officials rejected a methadone clinic, the center’s owners sued the city, seeking a business license and $1 million in punitive damages.

The civil rights suit, filed by Berwyn residents Elizabeth Buonauro and Sal Sottile, owners of the Bobby Buonauro Clinic in Evanston, alleges that Berwyn has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and is discriminating against people with addictions, who are considered disabled under federal law.

The city had originally voted 4-2 in favor of the clinic, planned for 3242 Grove Ave., in the Depot District, a downtown area that officials hope to attract businesses.

But in July, Mayor Michael O’Connor, who opposes the clinic, led hundreds of residents in a protest in a parking lot across from the clinic’s planned site. The residents feared that the clinic would bring drug addicts and crime to the neighborhood.

A week later, alderman changed their vote and unanimously rejected the clinic.

Attorney Robert Carson of Gould & Ratner in Chicago, who is representing the clinic’s owners in the lawsuit filed Friday, said the law recognizes an addiction as a disability, giving people with addictions protections under the law. Methadone, a regulated drug usually taken in liquid form, is required by law to be administered by a health-care professional. Those who take the opiate to lessen the pain of withdrawal from heroin and other addictive drugs must visit the clinic daily.

“For the city to decide that they are not going to permit a substance-abuse clinic to open, based on their perception of what they think disabled people are like, is unlawful,” Carson said. “The people are acting out of ignorance and fear. When alderman vote based on people’s fears, it becomes discrimination and is a violation of the act.”

O’Connor said he opposes a substance-abuse clinic in Berwyn, but that the clinic was denied because of zoning law.

“We are trying to attract more retail businesses to the Depot District, not medical offices,” he said. “There is no location in Berwyn for this type of business. This is the city of homes. There isn’t any location in this community that isn’t a short distance from where someone lives.”

O’Connor said money is not an issue and the city will fight the lawsuit.

“We have great plans for the district. This business is not compatible for the future of our business district,” he said.

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