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County Council passes resolution opposing location of methadone clinic

The St. Charles County Council has asked state officials to relocate a proposed treatment facility that would dispense methadone and other medications for opiate users from a location just outside the  city of St. Charles “to an appropriate location within St. Charles County.”

The council voted 6-0 at its Nov. 27 meeting on a resolution requesting that the Missouri Department of Mental Health deny certification of the location at 2027 Campus Drive, adding that they would not support the clinic at that location.  The facility would be housed in one unit of a commercial center that is in an unincorporated area.

The office would be operated by New Season, which has a similar facility in St. Louis County.  County officials say the facility would serve up to 350 clients receiving Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol between 5 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. with counseling until 1:30 p.m.  to treat opiate addiction.

Methadone, a narcotic, reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other drugs. It is commonly dispensed as part of drug detoxification and maintenance programs. Methadone would be used in 80 percent of the treatment, the resolution states. It also notes that law enforcement officials’ experience “is that methadone clinics can be a magnet for heroin dealers.”

The clinic would operate when parents would be dropping off children at a nearby daycare. Additionally, it would be close to an elementary school, intermediate and high schools nearby. The location isn’t served by public transportation and has about 60 parking spaces.

The clinic would be located in a building that includes Griener’s Pub, the Disabled Athlete Sports Association and The Pat Holt Singers,  a local singing group. The daycare center is located across Campus Drive. County officials said the location’s zoning allows a medical treatment facility.

Councilmembers Joe Cronin [District 1], Mike Elam [District 3], Terry Hollander [District 5] and Mike Klinghammer [District 6] sponsored the resolution; however, Klinghammer could not attend the council meeting because of a family emergency.

“The concern really is not the existence in the county of an opioid treatment facility, it’s really been about the nature of the neighborhood,” said Joann Leykam, the county’s director of administration, who relayed Klinghammer’s concerns.

She said Klinghammer and other county officials are concerned primarily because the center would be located near the daycare and a residential area. Leykam said when clinics are located in light industrial areas they get good reviews from neighbors.

Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] noted that there is an ongoing rise in abuse of opiate drug addiction and heroin overdoses in St. Louis City and County and St. Charles County.

“Nobody would want this in their neighborhood but to fight the opioid epidemic; yet, we really don’t have the willingness to do this,” Brazil said.  “Are we being hypocritical?”

Leykam said there are a number of other nearby locations in light industrial or former retail settings that would be more appropriate and supported.

“I don’t think we’re casting a blind eye on the need for opioid treatment,” Hollander said. “I think what we’re doing is attempting to point out that this just not a good location. The neighborhood, traffic and parking — this doesn’t just seem to work.”

Elam said he has not heard about such facilities in his district, which includes Dardenne Prairie, but as a member of the Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce, a number of people have reached out to him and said it was a bad idea.

“It’s needed but putting it across from a daycare center is not ideal,” he said. “There are other areas we can put this.”

County Executive Steve Ehlmann said one of the requirements for the Department of Mental Health to issue its certification is for New Season to show community support, which has not been forthcoming. Ehlmann said local drug courts say methadone isn’t a preferred treatment option but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

“I think it’s not what it is but how its run and where it’s located,” Ehlmann said.

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