Drug Treatment Center Looks to Strengthen Ties in the Community

Drug Treatment Center Looks to Strengthen Ties in the Community

As part of the Recovery Month activities, the Health Care Resource Center Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue

Counselors and staff at the Health Care Resource Center Methadone clinic on Crescent Avenue pause for a picture during their open house last Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of Recovery Month. Directors said they hope to build strong ties with the community and overcome the misconceptions about what they do.

opened its doors on Thursday, Sept. 27, to let residents find out more about what they do.

Victoria Johnson, treatment center director, said they offer a valuable service to patients looking to beat an addiction to opiates and other drugs. Known as medication assisted treatment, Methadone is administered at the Chelsea facility to about 750 patients on a daily basis – and it’s a system that has seen many happy endings.

“One of the biggest things we’re up against is the misconception of what we do and the benefits of medication assisted treatment,” she said. “Also, when people stigmatize the patients, it hurts the community. It’s the biggest fight providers are always up against.”

The clinic has often been seen as a location that Chelsea doesn’t want, and hasn’t been in close connection with the community at times. However, Johnson said they treat many residents of Chelsea and the surrounding communities and they want to forge closer ties. She also said they already work closely with the HUB/COR program and with the Chelsea Police.

During Recover Month, she said she wanted to stress they are part of the solution to this epidemic.

“We have a lot of people who have recovered,” she said, meaning they have weaned themselves off of Methadone. “We try to get them to come back and talk to the counseling groups we run about their success. We want them to share about how life has been when they no longer need to be medicated. We also try to stay in the community and build strong connections. A lot of people don’t know how to get into treatment, and that’s the biggest question we have.”

A typical day at the clinic starts about 5:30 a.m. when the staff arrives and prepares for the first patients to come in at 6 a.m. Those patients are typically those that work or take care of children or elderly family members. Normally, they will take their does and be in and out in about 15 minutes. Dosing continues throughout the morning until 11 a.m.

Anyone using the treatment also has to come in for a counseling component two hours per month, and 15 counselors are on hand to run group counseling for a variety of types.

Most of the patients pay for the service with MassHealth, and some insurances like Blue Cross/Blue Shield pay for the treatment as well.

Typically, Johnson said, patients will come in and stabilize using the Methadone treatment. That takes about two weeks to two months.

She also said they have very strict policies on loitering outside the clinic. She said if they find patients loitering or causing issues outside, they will call the police. Any problems with law enforcement can cause the patient to be removed from treatment.

“They’re not causing those problems here,” she said. “I always say to people, if they see it, call the police. Our goal is to get people into treatment, stabilize them, and set them up for success.”

Cutline –

Counselors and staff at the Health Care Resource Center Methadone clinic on Crescent Avenue pause for a picture during their open house last Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of Recovery Month. Directors said they hope to build strong ties with the community and overcome the misconceptions about what they do.

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Zoning Change Would Allow Expansion of Methadone and Drug Counseling

By Seth Daniel

A new provision being considered over the summer regarding zoning ordinances would allow the Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue and MGH-Chelsea to establish substance abuse counseling centers near their current site – though no medications would be allowed to be dispensed.

The Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue has recently come under fire, and particularly at a public meeting last month hosted by Councillors Luis Tejada, Roy Avellaneda and Leo Robinson. At that meeting, a huge turnout of residents opposed to the location of the clinic asked its owner if he would move it. The discussion went on for more than an hour.

All of the sudden, the Methadone Clinic seems to be a top concern of the public.

Now, City Manager Tom Ambrosino is proposing that the Council allow the clinic to expand its counseling services to an office building next door on Crescent Avenue through a change in the zoning ordinances. The change would also allow MGH-Chelsea to operate a counseling center near its location on Everett Avenue.

The change in zoning provides a definition of a counseling center, which stipulates that under no circumstances can it dispense medication. It also allows such centers to locate more easily in certain zoning districts of the city, including the Light Industrial and Highway Business Districts.

“There’s been no indication the Methadone Clinic is moving,” said Ambrosino. “The discussions we’ve had is the would like to have more counseling at a location next door. They have said they want to do more counseling to accompany the medication. MGH supports this idea too…There is a need for more counseling and we don’t have a zoning ordinance that allows it. We’re proposing to add it by special permit in these few districts away from residential areas.”

The change is part of a very large zoning package Ambrosino submitted to the Council right before its summer recess. The Council has been considering the many changes and proposals over the summer, and is expected to vote on it at the first meeting in the fall.

Last week, the Planning Board held a hearing on the ordinance for counseling centers, and took it under advisement.

Ambrosino said he knows the history of the Clinic, including the unpopular court order to put it on Crescent Avenue, but stressed that there would be no medication dispensed at the proposed counseling centers. He also said the Methadone Clinic has been responsive in recent years where maybe they weren’t in the past.

“In my tenure here, the Clinic has been pretty good to work to address problems when we’ve asked them to do so,” he said.

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Cortell’s Response to Perlatonda’s Comment on Strip Club

I was most surprised to read of Councillor Joe Perlatonda’s unwillingness to oppose the return of a strip club he speaks of in the same breath as concerns he voices about prostitution, addiction and the negatives that go along with being the home of a Methadone Clinic. I’ve gladly become a vocal voice in opposition to the return of this type of establishment to the district I represent and call home, as I would anywhere else in this City. As someone I’m not sure has ever attended a Licensing Commission, Planning Board, Economic Development Board or Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, and am certain was at none with Phantom Ventures as a party, I’m not sure from where he gets his conviction. I know I get mine from going to them and hearing the vehement sentiments of those I represent along with others throughout the city who’ve reached out to me, including residents from his district.

With no better idea than hiring a Police Commissioner and clearly against the likes of a methadone clinic, but without the understanding that the time to contest an undesirable use is before it’s here, at least as to the “gentleman’s club”, I’m as confident he doesn’t speak for those he represents as I am that the rest of us will continue to fight for the better things we’ve earned.

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