Walker County bans methadone clinics; Dade fought unsuccessfully against one

Walker County bans methadone clinics; Dade fought unsuccessfully against one

August 3rd, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Bebe Heiskell

Methadone clinics and other drug treatment facilities aren’t welcome in Walker County, Ga.

County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell amended the county’s zoning ordinance Thursday to ban them in unincorporated areas of the county.

“They need to be in the inner cities where the people are,” she said.

Heiskell isn’t alone in opposing the idea of a rural setting for methadone clinics, which dispense the legal synthetic narcotic to help patients addicted to heroin, morphine and oxycontin.

Dade County commissioners voted unanimously in April 2011 to ban methadone clinics in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the Tri-State Treatment methadone clinic from opening in the county’s north end near Interstate 24.

“They had already started construction of it,” County Executive Ted Rumley said. “They were kind of grandfathered in. The process had already went too far. If we had been challenged, we would have lost on it.”

The ordinance should stop future methadone clinics from opening, he said.

Rumley researched methadone clinics after the Tri-State Treatment issue arose, including spending several hours at a methadone clinic on Rossville Boulevard and calling area clinics to see how many Dade County residents used them.

“Only 12 people in Dade County at that time [used] methadone clinics,” he said.

“It just amazed me,” Rumley said of number of people lining up for methadone at the Rossville Boulevard clinic.

Dade County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Nash Phillips lives about a quarter-mile from the Tri-State Treatment methadone clinic. He opposed its opening “as a private citizen,” he said, not in his official capacity.

“I would say over 90 percent of the [clinic’s patients] are coming out of Tennessee,” Phillips said.

Asked if the clinic had generated calls for law enforcement, he said, “Right off hand, without checking any records, I remember one police call up there.”

Tri-State Treatment clinic didn’t return a call seeking comment.

<em>Staff writer Rachel Sauls contributed to this story.</em>

<em>Contact Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.</em>