Holmesburg in middle of two methadone clinic appeals

The Holmesburg Civic Association is currently appealing the recent approval of NorthEast Treatment Center’s methadone clinic at 7520 State Rd. The city’s Zoning Board issued the approval in early May, despite the overwhelming opposition by local businesses and residents.

That opposition consists of 30 appellants, made up of various civic associations in Northeast Philadelphia, as well as residents and local businesses that don’t want this methadone clinic to become their neighbor. Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse and Gershel Brothers Store Fixtures are direct neighbors to the proposed space and have been opposed to the placement from the very beginning. The list of appellants also includes Pa. Rep. Kevin Boyle and Sen. Mike Stack.

Frank Bennett, the attorney handling the case on behalf of the Holmesburg Civic Association, says that the decision to place the clinic on State Road has made the community feel disenfranchised from decisions that affect their neighborhood and, possibly, their way of life.

NET’s proposal isn’t the first to stir up controversy in Holmesburg. When The Healing Way Inc. got a permit to operate a methadone clinic on the 7900-block of Frankford Avenue in 2011, that was met with opposition. The Court of Common Pleas recently ruled in favor of The Healing Way, and Holmesburg and Mayfair are now raising funds to appeal.

A January hearing put together by Boyle sought to bring both sides together to discuss clinics’ impact on neighborhoods, but advocates for addiction treatment said the hearing was full of “misinformation,” and that there seemed to be confusion between addiction treatment centers and the problem Frankford has had with recovery houses.

Capt. John McCloskey suggested State Road as a less populated alternative. Holmesburg residents appear to disagree.

Bennett says that it’s not a matter of, “not my neighborhood,” but, a matter of an already congested area throwing more traffic into the mix. State Road is home to three penitentiary buildings, as well as the Prison Health Services and the Philadelphia Police Academy.  The Holmesburg Junction SEPTA Regional Rail stop is nearby. Bennett added that he doesn’t know of another location that would be large enough to support the needs of the proposed methadone clinic in the Northeast or any other part of the city.

Although Holmesburg Civic Association President Rich Frizell is currently on vacation and was unable to be reached for comment, he has previously said that location is not the only concern. Treating addiction without weaning is an issue for him, as well.

“They don’t wean you off of drugs,” he said at a November civic association meeting. “Their philosophy is, you’re on methadone, then you’re on methadone for the rest of your life.”

At methadone clinics, patients are kept on a steady dosage schedule to prevent them from experiencing withdrawal and keep them in a functional state.

“There are drugs in Northeast Philadelphia,” Frizell said at that meeting. “There are drugs in Holmesburg. No, my head’s not in the sand. We do need these facilities, but I don’t think we need a 60,000 square-foot facility in Holmesburg.”

The appeal is still in “the very early stages,” Bennett said. It was filed May 13.  The case is still awaiting assignment to one of two judges who will oversee the case and make a decision. Bennett expects the entire process to take about nine months.

While the support for the Holmesburg Civic Association’s cause is strong, NET is fighting just as hard for the chance to help treat people with addiction. Bennett says he usually works with clients in the $40,000 income range. The attorney representing NET, Stephen G. Pollock, is part of the Montgomery McCracken law firm. Montgomery McCracken has handled large-scale real estate cases, such as the financing of the stadiums for the Eagles and the Phillies. “It could go either way,”  he said.

“We have to come together and find a way it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Fred Martin said after last winter’s hearing. Martin works for The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania Inc., which supports addiction recovery solutions.

The division of NET that handles drug-related treatment did not respond to several requests for comment. Sonya Mendelovich, who manages a NET behavioral clinic, speaks highly of the good NET does in the city, and the Northeast in particular. The behavioral division had a banquet on June 15, which honored patients who have achieved various goals in their lives.



WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal