California firm sues town of Warren over methadone clinic

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted May 31, 2011, at 9:26 p.m.

WARREN, Maine — A California-based drug rehabilitation company has filed a federal lawsuit against the town of Warren, which temporarily banned methadone clinics. The clinic argues that the town violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by preventing drug addicts from getting treatment in Warren.

CRC Health Group attempted to move into a former Warren school months ago to operate a methadone clinic. Bob Emery of Vixen Land Holdings LLC, a Rockland developer, tried to purchase the unused building from the town, telling municipal officials he would rent it to a business for office space. When it came out that the office space actually was going to be rented to CRC Health Group for a methadone clinic, the town broke off the agreement to sell the former school to Emery.

Townspeople then voted for a temporary moratorium against methadone clinics so the town would have time to create regulations for the location and operation of such facilities.

All of this, CRC Health Group argues in its lawsuit filed earlier this month, violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit was by no means a surprise to the town. The company had sent warning letters months ago. In one letter, the company argued that the town had discriminated by not selling the school building. The town replied that the firm had no right to sue it because the company had nothing to do with the sale of the school; the town’s sales agreement was with Vixen, not a methadone clinic. Town officials broke the sales agreement after they learned that Vixen would rent the old school to the clinic.

Town officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, CRC Health Group is asking the court to find that the town’s actions have been discriminatory because drug addicts are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the municipality won’t allow them to receive treatment within the town’s limits. It also is asking the court to order the town to allow the company to move in and for the town to pay the company’s legal fees.

Warren townspeople have been vocal in their opposition to the methadone clinic since the news came out that CRC Health Group sought to locate in their town. Of the approximately 250 people who turned out for a hearing about the methadone moratorium, only one voted against the ban. Before that hearing in December, about 600 petition-signers asked for the town to make sure the clinic couldn’t move into the former school.

According to the lawsuit, the townspeople also wore “Methadon’t” buttons around town and yelled things at public meetings like, “you are bringing shameless addicts here,” and called the methadone clinic staff “weasels who push synthetic heroin.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/31/news/california-firm-sues-town-of-warren-over-methadone-clinic/ printed on September 22, 2014