Methadone clinic in Sparta?
by Sparta Live | July 30, 2009 12:00 am
Information received by The Expositor this week indicated possible attempts to place a methadone clinic in Sparta after permits were denied for proposed locations in Monterey and Spencer.
According to Phyllis Bennett, executive director of Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, she is a strong proponent of bringing a methadone clinic to this region. Bennett has been a staunch supporter of J. Paul Connell, chief executive officer of Private Clinic North, in Rossville, Ga., who first attempted to obtain a permit to locate a similar facility in Monterey.
Methadone is a narcotic drug used for the treatment of pain and for the treatment of opiod dependence. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the cost of methadone is less than that of other narcotic painkillers. The CDC also stated methadone-related deaths have increased more in the past several years than other narcotic-related deaths
In February 2009, Connell told The Expositor he withdrew the application for the Monterey clinic because of “a technicality in the filing process.”
On June 24, 2009, Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency denied Connell’s request to locate the clinic in Spencer.
During a July 8, 2009, interview with Connell stated, “I’m not going to purse another clinic,” citing his decision was based on strong opposition in the Upper Cumberland.
However, Bennett said Tuesday she had recently sent letters, which totaled 120, to UCHRA Advisory Board members asking for their input about a methadone clinic.
“I did have some responses back, and two were from White County, from the private sector,” said Bennett. “They were looking at it more from the number of jobs and opportunities.”
Bennett said she was concerned about the “huge number” of people in the Upper Cumberland who have drug addictions, many of whom, according to Bennett, turn to UCHRA for help.
Bennett quoted one sentence from her letter to advisory board members, “Although we lost the battle of getting the clinic in Van Buren County, we won the war.”
Bennett said THSDA members who heard the request for the licensing of the Van Buren clinic reportedly acknowledged methadone is effective in treating specified drug addictions. Committee members also reportedly stated Private Clinic North, in Rossville, Ga., is “a highly accredited, successful, viable business.” However, the committee reportedly did not feel Van Buren County would be a good location for the clinic, because the county does not have the appropriate “infrastructure,” such as a hospital.
Bennett and two other individuals later met with staff members of THSDA. She was reportedly told the clinic should be more centrally located, with easier access to I-40.
“I asked them if White County would work, and they said they would send someone from Mental Health to look and see if the location was acceptable,” said Bennett.
Bennett stressed she does not know if Connell is interested in pursuing this matter, but she indicated there is a possible location for the clinic that sits close to White County’s UCHRA office, on Valley View Drive. As of press time, Connell could not be reached for comment.
“First of all, addiction is a disease – it’s not a weakness,” said Bennett. “People who really want to change their lives will get up early in the morning, drive and get a small amount of methadone, stay for counseling and then go to their job.”
Bennett said UCHRA is supportive of this clinic because of its direct contact with the individuals who are in need of this service.
“Our philosophy and our mission statement is to move people from dependence to independence,” said Bennett. “A person addicted to prescription medicine cannot be independent.”
Sparta Mayor Tommy Pedigo said he has received numerous calls from people stating they had heard a methadone clinic would be locating in Sparta.
“If that’s what the people [residents] want, that’s OK, but I want to make sure the people are aware this is being done,” said Pedigo. “If we need to make contact with Phyllis Bennett, if we need to make contact with anybody else at UCHRA, that’s where we need to start.
“Who are the people who are interested? No one has ever contacted me as mayor. I’ve never talked to anybody. But other people who are either on the advisory committee with UCHRA are apparently showing some interest in this. We need to find out who are they are, and the people need to let them know what they think about it.”
Pedigo may be contacted at 836-3273.