Proposed drug clinic near border stirs up bad blood in Lansdowne

Lansdowne residents talk after a town hall meeting on Thursday about plans for a methadone treatment center on Union Avenue in Upper Darby (Samaria Bailey/The Philadelphia Tribune)

Lansdowne residents talk after a town hall meeting on Thursday about plans for a methadone treatment center on Union Avenue in Upper Darby (Samaria Bailey/The Philadelphia Tribune)

This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

A group of Lansdowne residents is fighting a methadone treatment center for opioid users that is set to open just a few feet away in Upper Darby.

“Our bone of contention is that the only thing separating us from them is Union Avenue,” Lynn Peterson, a Lansdowne resident, said at a town hall meeting on Thursday. “It’s not that we don’t want people to receive help. [It’s] a facility in the middle of a residential area, on a strip of commercial land where there is a dollar store and a Save-A-Lot. So, we have our kids and our elderly in the midst of that.”

But Lansdowne Mayor Anthony Campuzano said he can’t do anything to stop the treatment center from coming to the neighborhood.

“This facility is in Upper Darby. I have no jurisdiction over this being the mayor of Lansdowne,” he said. “I represent the residents that are concerned. That’s why I set up this meeting.

“This is not a facility that is trying to make matters worse with drugs and addicts. They’re trying to help people — normal people who get addicted — to recover,” he said. “I’m not going to say there isn’t going to be a problem here and there. With anything, there is a problem. The bottom line is Lansdowne will keep an eye on this facility [and] what goes on with our residents down there.”

Recovery Centers of America has proposed opening the 800-patient treatment center at 53 Union Ave. in Upper Darby. The center would use methadone to treat addicts of opioids such as fentanyl, heroin and oxycodone, and provide drug counseling.

Peterson said she and her neighbors had not heard of the proposal until recently.

“When I questioned that there’s something we need to do here, the state legislator was unaware of it. I went to all three schools, they were all unaware there was going to be a methadone treatment center three blocks close to their school, four blocks tops.”

Melissa Bishop, a director at Recovery Centers of America, said the company started looking at sites for a treatment center “some time last year.”

RCA held a community meeting about the treatment center on April 11. Bishop said her staff distributed fliers to notify neighbors about the meeting and contacted Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon’s office.

Neither state nor federal officials attended the meeting, RCA spokeswoman Teri Malenfant said.

“RCA has been open and transparent with all local and state authorities and is complying with all state notification requirements,” Bishop said. “It’s important to understand that our patients are suffering from the disease of addiction and are seeking ongoing treatment so they can be contributing members of society. However RCA does want to work with the community to address their concerns.”

Bishop says the proposed site is in a commercial zone, which makes it eligible to house the treatment center.

Several residents wondered why the site is close to schools and a bus stop, and said they worried about how youth could be affected.

“It’s exposing them to something they don’t need to be exposed to,” one woman said.

A man said he wants his son to have “positive views.”

“That’s why people want to be here,” he said. He continued that the center would “mess up the dynamic” and “it’s not that they are bad people [but] these people have addictive behaviors.”

Bishop pointed out that “another medication assisted treatment facility already operates within a similar distance from local schools.”

Bishop said RCA needs a license from the state and the DEA before it can open. She said the company expects to receive its licenses within “two months” and the treatment center will open soon after.

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