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Turning Tide

It is with a very heavy heart that I post this story….because ARM-ME believed in the cause of this clinic and we still believe this clinic was capable of doing wonderful things for the people of MidCoast Maine who struggle with opiate addiction.
I am posting the story not to add to the stigma or discrimination that Turning Tide patients will face for years to come because of this event–but to be sure that the event is documented on this blog so that people will not forget how crazy out of control things can get when it comes to methadone treatment and the stigma surrounding it.
I want to say, as a private Maine citizen, as an advocate and as a methadone patient, that I will never understand how the clinic was more of a “threat to public health and safety” then letting 280 opiate addicted people become de-stabilized, scared, sick and devastated is….. apparently your health and safety only matters if your NOT a methadone patient.
This timeline was published in a local paper and please note that many of us who fought very hard to have this clinic opened, would have drawn a different timeline with facts about the “other side” of this story included.

The rise and fall of Turning Tide

A timeline of events for Rockland’s methadone clinic

// By Staff | Aug 20, 2010

Rockland — The following is a timeline of events spanning from the first proposal of a methadone clinic in Rockland to the decision Aug. 19 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to shut Turning Tide down.

1997

Angel Fuller-McMahan was arrested and accused of heroin trafficking. She was later convicted of heroin possession.

November 2004

Emotions ran high during a public meeting at Rockland City Hall, concerning the proposed Turning Tide methadone clinic.

With a friend supporting her, a trembling Angela Pejouhy stood at the podium and spoke of her daughter Evy, who had died the previous January of a methadone overdose. The drugs, she said, came from the Discovery House clinic in South Portland.

She challenged Angel Fuller-McMahan, one of the founders of Turning Tide Inc., the corporation seeking to open a methadone clinic in Rockland, to “really do something for the community, not just a little slice.”

Earlier, in front of that same podium, an enraged Daryle Weiss screamed at Marty O’Brien and Joanne Ogden of Turning Tide, detailing his youth in New Jersey and his personal experiences with heroin addicts, in both the community and his family.

“I am a schoolteacher and a father, and if you have this [clinic] in this town I will move,” said Weiss, the varsity football coach at Rockland District High School, his voice rising in volume and rage.

“You can have my house and put your junkies in it!” he said.

O’Brien and Fuller-McMahan called the meeting to address community questions about the clinic, which was scheduled to open at 77 Park St. the following year.

Speaker after speaker criticized methadone and the clinic while speaking to O’Brien and Ogden, who was aiding Turning Tide’s opening. Fuller-McMahan, then a methadone patient, was jeered.

Hal Perry of Rockland said the clinic would cause Rockland to turn from the “Gateway to Penobscot Bay” into the “Gateway to Hell.” Perry was circulating a petition against the clinic, parallel to another petition started by a St. George woman, Chris Rike.

At the end of the 90-minute session, O’Brien said the reaction was “pretty average.” “We’ve found that people opposed [to clinics] usually attend the meetings,” he said.

Rockland, he added, “Seems like a pretty tight-knit community, with strong opinions about the safety of the community.”

Fuller-McMahan of Owls Head was upset about the personal attacks. “It’s me,” she said, when asked if the audience was most concerned with the clinic, maintenance methadone therapy or her background.

In 1997, Fuller-McMahan had been arrested for heroin trafficking, and later convicted of heroin possession. She had been a methadone patient at Discovery House in South Portland for six years.

“I wish people would give me a chance,” she said. “Give me the opportunity to prove that we can make a different model of clinic.”

Nov. 20 – 27, 2004

More than 100 people turned out to march against Turning Tide Inc., the corporation seeking to open a methadone clinic in Rockland.

Organizer Weiss said at the time he would check on the legality of also marching on the Owls Head home of Fuller-McMahan, one of the founders of Turning Tide.

Carrying signs and chanting “No methadone!” more than 60 protesters made their opinions known the following Saturday as they marched through downtown Rockland.

Gathering at noon at the Maine State Ferry Terminal, the group marched past merchants and shoppers on Main Street and circled back, waving their signs for passersby along Route 1 near the Navigator Inn.

The protest sought support for the growing anti-methadone movement that formed in response to the methadone clinic proposed by Turning Tide Inc.

“People need to know what’s happening,” said Weiss. “We feel strongly about this. If you’re not passionate about legalized drug dealing in your community, it’s just hard to believe.”

Weiss and others fighting the proposed clinic saw methadone as a substitute addiction nearly as dangerous as the drug addictions it is intended to treat. Many marchers had friends and relatives who had died from methadone abuse, and claimed the illegal sale of methadone was already a problem in the Rockland community.

Clinic supporters argued the facility would offer a badly needed service by safely treating heroin addicts from Rockland and other nearby communities.

Weiss said the protests would continue until the plans for the clinic were scrapped, and called on supporters to attend the special meeting planned at Rockland City Hall.

“Mark my words,” said Weiss. “Daryle Weiss will stand in front of the methadone clinic every day until they close the doors — until hell freezes over — just to let them know that I don’t like it.”

February 2005

The fight over a methadone clinic in Rockland was moving from city hall to the halls of federal court. The Rockland City Council voted down a zone change to allow Turning Tide to open in the Tuttle Shoe Barn.

The zone change was rejected on a 3 to 2 vote. Voting against were Mayor Tom Molloy and councilors Adele Faber and Patti Moran Wotton.

Voting down the rezoning dashed the clinic’s hopes for compromise with the city, Turning Tide founder Fuller-McMahan said.

“I’ve given the go ahead to file the lawsuit,” said Fuller-McMahan. “I thought we’d be able to work this out. [Rockland] is my city too; I don’t want to see the city in financial ruin. They don’t realize what they’re doing.”

She said the lawsuit should be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by the end of the week.

The City Council reluctantly voted to rezone the Tuttle Barn after two councilors, Brian Harden and Carol Maines, pushed for the rezoning as the more palatable alternative to a legal fight.

Councilors Carol Maines and Brian Harden voted for the rezoning.

“I’m not one who favors a methadone clinic in Rockland,” said Harden. “But Turning Tide has presented four different charges that leave [the city] vulnerable to judgment in U.S. District Court.”

In a draft lawsuit given to the city, the clinic argued the city had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and lacked jurisdiction to control the distribution of methadone through local ordinance.

“[The city’s] intention to thwart or otherwise negate the scheme of federal law and to prohibit the methadone maintenance clinic from conducting business in Rockland is unlawful and its actions are preempted by federal law,” the draft lawsuit said.

Harden and Maines said the city’s legal footing against the claims of Turning Tide was weak.

“No matter what we do, we will end up with a methadone clinic in this city, and we may not like where it ends up,” Maines said.

“I am convinced we cannot prevail [in court],” said Harden. “State and federal law won’t let us stop this clinic, so we should have a say in where we put it.”

Other councilors girded for a fight to keep the methadone clinic on Route 90. “The council has spoken,” Mayor Molloy said. “Let them take us to court — I’m not afraid of a lawsuit.”

Perhaps the city should be, cautioned Fuller-McMahan. She said the clinic sought extensive damages in its lawsuit, including lost profits due to its delayed opening because of the court case.

An Indiana jury granted a methadone clinic $1.022 million in 2001 for lost profits as damages against the city of Indianapolis, after the city slowed the clinic’s opening based on zoning.

Though the damages were later overturned by a federal appeals court in January 2003, the methadone clinic, Discovery House, was allowed to open in the zone.

“I wouldn’t have had so many expenses if it hadn’t been for this ridiculous opposition,” said Fuller-McMahan. “If they would only do their research: in every lawsuit, the methadone clinic has prevailed.”

The draft lawsuit also attacked the council’s January decision to retroactively rezone “sole-source pharmacies” such as methadone clinics into commercial 3 zones.

“Rockland’s adoption and retroactive application of the ordinances … have taken plaintiffs’ property and thwarted its business, causing it lost revenues, profits and other opportunities,” the lawsuit stated.

“I don’t understand it; this is going to hurt the city,” said Fuller-McMahan. “I think supporters of [the council] won’t be happy when the city has to raise taxes, and won’t be able to build a recreation center for their children.”

John Doyle, the attorney for Turning Tide, said he didn’t “relish going to litigation” with the city. If the rezoning had been approved, he said, Turning Tide would have dropped the suit.

Turning Tide had a purchase agreement for the Tuttle Shoe Barn, and had received support from the Maine Office of Substance Abuse to open there.

The agency’s director, Kim Johnson, wrote the city on Feb. 8 to say the Tuttle Barn was a “good choice” for a clinic.

Residents of Pleasant Gardens, the neighborhood behind Tuttle’s, voiced a different opinion to the City Council.

“I will not accept my 10-year-old daughter being placed in harm’s way from these people who need to get treatment,” said Darren Winslow, who lived two houses behind the barn on Glenwood Avenue.

Dale Maxcy, a Garden Avenue homeowner, said a clinic would force residents to “run a gauntlet” at the neighborhood entrance. “This zone change will put a nuisance in this subdivision,” he said.

Fuller-McMahan said Turning Tide’s goal was to open at Tuttle’s. “I can’t say [Ruben Tuttle] will wait a year for me, and if I win, I can move to the middle of Main Street,” she said. “But if the Tuttle Barn is available, that’s where I’d like to go.”

January 2006

Over the pleas of neighbors, the Rockland City Council approved a contract zone change with Turning Tide Inc., clearing the way for the controversial methadone clinic to open on Route 1.

The vote, 4-1 in favor, was the last step in lengthy negotiations aimed at settling a federal lawsuit the clinic filed against the city.

The lawsuit sought to overturn zoning amendments enacted by the city to combat the clinic’s plans to open on Park Street.

The clinic was poised to open in the Tuttle Shoe Barn, a dilapidated former shoe store on the Route 1 line with Thomaston. Turning Tide had a $500,000 option on the property, and planned to use it for the clinic and a retail store.

At the corner of Route 1 and Glenwood Avenue, the Tuttle Barn sat at the entrance to Pleasant Gardens, a neighborhood of approximately 30 homes.

Pleasant Gardens residents implored the council to rethink the contract with Turning Tide, for the sake of the children, the neighborhood and property values.

The corner was also the neighborhood’s bus stop, and Pleasant Gardens parents said they were worried about their children’s exposure to the clinic, and feared brawls, drug deals or drowsy drivers threatening child safety. City officials said they would try to have the bus stop moved.

Residents also grumbled that a lower-income neighborhood like Pleasant Gardens was being victimized by the city as a place for the clinic, while other, more affluent areas of Rockland were protected.

“If you put this at the end of Samoset Road,” former Mayor Jimmy Raye said, pointing toward the audience, “this place would be filled.” An “Amen!” was blurted behind him.

Councilor Eric Hebert said the decision was out of the city’s hands.

May 2006

The city of Rockland on May 4 issued a building permit to Turning Tide Inc., clearing the proposed methadone clinic to pursue operations in the former Tuttle Shoe Barn on Route 1.

With the permit, the city also paved the way for Turning Tide to drop its federal lawsuit against the city, which sought to overturn zoning amendments passed by the Rockland City Council in 2004, in the wake of serious public concern about the facility.

A notice of settlement in the case was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Michael Kaplan, an attorney for Turning Tide, said the case was effectively settled when the city’s code enforcement officer, John Root, issued the building permit on May 4. “We just need the signatures,” said Kaplan, for the case to be finally closed.

City records indicated Turning Tide would spend $160,000 to renovate the barn into the clinic and retail space.

July 2008

The clinic, located on New County Road on the Thomaston town line, had received its U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration license, said clinic Director Dan Mahoney. Staff members were making final arrangements so they could begin serving clients.

July 2008

After more than two years of planning and permitting, Turning Tide opened on New County Road and Route 1 near the Thomaston town line.

Shortly after opening, the Rockland methadone clinic was treating 40 to 50 patients, some of whom were previously traveling to Portland for treatment.

The clinic, in the building formerly occupied by Tuttle’s Shoe Barn, contained a reception area, waiting room, pharmacy and dosage area, doctor’s office, and conference room.

July 2010

It was reported that most of the patients receiving methadone at the Turning Tide clinic in Rockland were eligible for MaineCare to pay for their treatment, according to data provided by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. MaineCare is Maine’s Medicaid program, and it is funded through a combination of state and federal dollars.

Turning Tide had received a total of $745,000 in MaineCare funding for state fiscal year 2010 as of June 9, according to Department of Health and Human Services spokesman John Martins. That represented all of the Medicaid payments made by the department to Turning Tide in the most recent fiscal year. That fiscal year ran from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.

Turning Tide President and Program Director Fuller-McMahan confirmed that figure was correct. She said about three quarters of Turning Tide’s patients paid through MaineCare. About 26 percent paid in cash, she said.

Medicaid paid $519,596 to Turning Tide Inc. for methadone treatments in state fiscal year 2009, according to a document provided by Guy Cousins, director of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse. As of June 14, 2010, it had paid $698,394 for methadone treatments in fiscal year 2010, according to the same document.

Fuller-McMahan said the clinic was not reimbursed for any other services than providing methadone. She said the figures provided by Cousins might be different from what she had received due to the state’s lag in reimbursements. It tended to be about four weeks behind in reimbursements, she said. “Their fiscal years are different from mine,” she said.

Last year, 235 Turning Tide patients were eligible for Medicaid or MaineCare to pay for their treatments. This year 273 Turning Tide patients were eligible for MaineCare services, according to the data from Cousins.

Fuller-McMahan said Turning Tide had 278 patients altogether. She said that while the chart from the state may reflect accurately how many patients are eligible for MaineCare, she did not believe the percentage of her patients paying through that means was that high.

Turning Tide was one of nine clinics in Maine that provide medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse. Statewide, the clinics received a total of $8,623,160 in fiscal year 2009 and $8,826,146 in fiscal year 2010. Cousins said that money predominantly funded methadone treatments, but some of it also funded Suboxone treatments.

Cousins said MaineCare pays a bundled rate of about $80 per week for each methadone patient to receive the drug. Turning Tide Clinical Director Mike Franklin put it a different way, saying it costs about $4,000 a year per patient for the treatments.

In addition to providing the treatments, Cousins confirmed that in some cases MaineCare provides transportation for patients to methadone clinics.

July 13, 2010

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency arrested Angel Fuller-McMahan, 42, of Owls Head for felony possession of cocaine. She was the licensed operator and owner of the Turning Tide methadone clinic in Rockland.

MDEA Director Roy McKinney said drug agents, assisted by Rockland police, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police, arrested Fuller-McMahan at about 10:45 a.m. along New County Road in Rockland. McKinney said Fuller-McMahan was arrested after agents observed her buying cocaine in a private parking lot along New County Road. Her car was pulled over by Rockland police and the MDEA.

Agents seized from Fuller-McMahan about an ounce of cocaine hidden in her pants, along with hypodermic needles. McKinney said the street value of the cocaine was $2,500. Fuller-McMahan’s 2000 Ford Escort was also seized during her arrest.

She was taken to the Knox County Jail in Rockland and freed on $5,000 unsecured bail. Her court appearance is set for Sept. 29 in Knox County Superior Court.

July 16, 2010

A counselor from the Turning Tide methadone clinic in Rockland was charged with attempting to buy nearly an ounce of cocaine, a case tied to the arrest of the clinic’s founder and operator.

Carol Gardiner, 49, of Thorndike was issued a summons for felony attempted possession of cocaine, according to Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Supervisor James Pease. Gardiner was a counselor at Turning Tide at the time she was charged, Pease said.

Aug. 19, 2010

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shut down the controversial Turning Tide methadone clinic, citing an imminent threat to the health and safety of the public.

Federal DEA spokesman Anthony Pettigrew said agents arrived at the clinic and issued an immediate suspension order.

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