At 8 a.m. one Saturday in December 1997 along Route 90 in Warren, Angel Fuller-McMahan, also known as Angel Dorothy Christine Fuller-McMahan, was driving her 1994 Cadillac when police signaled her to pull over.
Instead of stopping, Fuller-McMahan sped away, which apparently she hoped would provide time for her husband, Vance McMahan, to toss out at least some of the 70 packets of heroin they had picked up recently in Massachusetts.
Police behind them watched as one packet after another was tossed from the window. Angel eventually pulled over, police searched the car, collected all the little packets along the roadway and charged the couple with trafficking in heroin.
The heroin allegedly was meant to be distributed to other addicts in the Rockland area.
In 2001 Angel pleaded guilty to heroin possession. In 2004 she announced her plans to open up a methadone clinic in Rockland, which she did in July 2008 complete with the blessing and necessary licenses from the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Board of Pharmacy — all of which were well aware of her felony drug convictions and drug addiction.
But it was OK because she was recovered and all, and she was hellbent on helping to save the hundreds of other active opiate addicts along the midcoast. And the feds put in all sorts of rules that would ensure that she didn’t have the key to the methadone cabinet, so to speak.
I mean, after all, she’s just the director of the clinic and the CFO and the CEO — she couldn’t possibly get ahold of the methadone that the clinic hands out to 280 patients each day.
Last week, almost exactly two years after the clinic opened, Angel was busted with about $2,500 worth of cocaine in her pants in a parking lot just down the road a spell from her clinic, according to police.
So I called Guy Cousins, who works at the Office of Substance Abuse — an arm of DHHS — that deals with methadone clinics.
It took him a day or two to call me back because apparently Angel’s relapse has caused a certain level of concern among the regulating agencies mentioned above.
They’re having a lot of “conversations.”
“So during these conversations has anyone suggested that perhaps providing state and federal licenses to operate a methadone clinic to those with felony drug convictions and known opiate addictions might not be such a good idea?” I asked.
“That’s been part of our conversation,” Guy acknowledged.
“But we believe in recovery,” he said. “How long is long enough to be in recovery?”
Well, I just don’t know, but apparently the DEA and DHHS felt that a few years was good enough for Angel, and they let her be in charge of a clinic that distributes one of the most deadly and widely abused narcotics in the nation.
Methadone is the most common drug found in the bodies of people who die of drug overdoses, according to a report produced in 2009 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The number of methadone drug items seized by law enforcement and analyzed in forensic labs across the country increased 262 percent from 2001 to 2007, according to the GAO.Alarmingly, in Maine more people die from drug overdoses than die in car accidents, and methadone is involved in many of those tragedies.
Running a methadone clinic is quite an awesome responsibility. It’s controversial, and it should be.
I believe in recovery, too.
I believe that some serial arsonists can be rehabilitated, but that doesn’t mean I’d vote for one to be fire chief a few years after getting out of prison.
Angel was making plans to open her clinic just three years after pleading guilty to heroin possession. She herself was a methadone client.
I wish Angel well. I hope she gets back on track and finds her way back on the road to recovery. I wish that for all opiate addicts.
I’m just not so sure I want our state and local governmental agencies patting them on the back with a “welcome back to sobriety and here are the keys to the methadone closet. Go forth and dispense it.”
E-mail Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org and listen to her and co-host Dan Frazell from 7 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on the radio at 103.1 The Pulse.