Residents object to proposed methadone clinic near high school

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DENVER — Plans to open a methadone clinic across from East High School next month have neighbors frustrated because they’re powerless to stop it.  Unlike marijuana businesses, methadone clinics the don’t have to be located at least a thousand feet from schools and they don’t even have to send out a public notice when they’re about to open.

“These clinics can move into any neighborhood without any notice,” complained Roger Armstrong, Executive Director of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods.

The Denver Recovery Group hopes to open its treatment facility at 2282 E. Colfax Avenue in early May just 550 feet from East High School.

“Certainly parents who have students who walk by here at this crosswalk to get to school, they have concerns about who their kids are going to be interfacing with, so it is frustrating,” said Armstrong.

Chad Tewksburys is a partner and the marketing director for the Denver Recovery Group.

“If we can open the program and it saves one life then it`s worth it,” said Tewksbury.

He lost his step-mom and father to drug use and said neighborhood opposition isn’t about to stop him from opening up the drug treatment and recovery center.

“The public has this perception that we`re going to have people outside camping out in tents.  This isn`t a homeless shelter, we`re here to help people in their addiction,” said Tewsksbury.  He said the clinic will treat people with heroine and opiate addictions.

Methadone clinics are zoned as medical buildings so they don’t face set-back or public notification requirements, like Marijuana or Alcohol establishments do.  Neighbors like Matt Berman think zoning laws need to change when it comes to methadone clinics.

“They don`t have to inform the neighborhood, they don`t have to have a meeting about the pros and cons of it being in that area, the potential dangers that things like marijuana shops or even a wine shop need  to have, so I think it`s a loophole that needs to be closed,” said Berman.

District 10 councilwoman Jeanne Robb said she’s getting an earful from constituents.

“It`s shocking to citizens and I get whey they`re confused,” said Robb.

Now the councilwoman is asking the city attorney if it’s possible to craft an ordinance to restrict future methadone clinics, “there`s not notification, there`s not spacing requirements and frankly it looks more like a store front than a medical clinic.”  Robb points out there’s already a methadone clinic at 1620 Gaylord Street about a half mile away from the proposed Denver Recovery Group, “Two within blocks of each other is too many,” she said.

Recovering addicts like Alisha Gyles insist they’re no threat to the neighborhood.

“I`m actually getting help for my addiction.  They shouldn`t be afraid of people getting help for their addiction, they should be afraid of people not getting help.”

The Denver Office of Drug Strategy estimates there are more than 11,000 injection drug addicts in the metro who need treatment.  The Denver Recovery Group helps to serve a few hundred people every day.  “I think if you`re trying to gentrify or fix the neighborhood up, the first place you`re going to want to start is with the drugs,” said Tewksbury.

City leaders and staff members from the Denver Recovery Groups are hosting a neighborhood meeting Tuesday April 21st at East High School at 6:30.


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