Court OKs methadone clinic for Shelby
MALCOMB DANIELS and JOSEPH BRYANT, News staff writers.
Birmingham News, Saturday, October 22, 2005.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals issued a ruling Friday that could clear the way for Shelby County's first methadone clinic to open in Saginaw. A partner in a group that had applied for permission to open a separate clinic in downtown Alabaster said he will abandon those plans in light of the ruling.
In a 3-1 decision, the appeals court overturned a 2004 ruling from Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves that blocked the Shelby County Treatment Center from opening off U.S. 31 in Saginaw.
Susan Staats-Sidwell, one of the prospective business' owners, said her clinic finally can open after almost two years of battling opposition. "We won on every account," she said.
Methadone is a prescribed drug that is used to lessen the desire for other drugs such as heroin and painkillers.
The clinic's opponents expressed concerns about a business bringing drug addicts into their neighborhood, while the prospective owners said it would serve patients who already live in Shelby County and have to make long daily trips to one of the clinics in Jefferson County to get methadone.
Last year, a group of Saginaw residents filed a lawsuit after the state Certificate of Need Review Board granted Shelby County Treatment Center a permit to open.
The residents contended they had not been given a fair chance to oppose the clinic because Shelby County Treatment Center changed its planned location from Calera to Saginaw after the permit was granted.
The residents were represented in the case by Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens and Pelham lawyer Mickey Johnson. Efforts to reach Owens and Johnson for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
Bill Bostick, chief assistant district attorney for Shelby County, said the district attorney's office was surprised by the ruling. He said he couldn't comment further because no one in the office had read the ruling.
The Court of Civil Appeals found that the permit granted to Shelby County Treatment Center covered the entire county, and at that time state law did not require the state Health Planning and Development Agency to give notice of a change in the clinic's location.
The uproar by Saginaw residents led the agency to adopt statewide rules that require public notification when changes are made in proposed locations for medical facilities.
In its ruling Friday, the appeals court also found that Shelby County Treatment Center had not misrepresented where it planned to open, and agreed with the plaintiffs that Reeves should have granted their motion to have Owens removed from the case because the state had no interest in it.
"My clients are excited about the opinion the Court of Civil Appeals entered," said David Belser, lawyer for the center. "I also find it significant that the court ruled that the district attorney had no authority to represent the plaintiffs in that case. They sided with us on every single issue we brought up," Belser said.
Following the release of the ruling, Robert White, of the proposed Cahaba Valley Treatment Center, said he'll end his attempts to open a clinic in Alabaster. "There's not enough business down there for two (clinics)," White said. "There's no sense in even attempting it."