Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Town hall addresses concerns about opioid clinic

A town hall meeting designed to allay concerns about an opioid treatment center drew a large crowd in Westland last week.
The new facility met the requirements of both the planning commission and city council and was approved for the former Montana's Steakhouse site at 34290 Ford Road. Council members James Hart and Peter Herzberg cast the only dissenting votes on the new facility.
Following approval of the site, residents appeared at a council meeting to protest the decision prompting Mayor William R. Wild and the council to schedule the public meeting to provide information and address concerns of residents who protested that the facility would be too close to two schools, an apartment complex and a cemetery. and that other locations would be more desirable.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, a consultant planning the treatment facility attended the meeting and answered questions from those in attendance. Barthwell has spent nearly her entire career working with addictions and served under former President George W. Bush in the the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Also in attendance was the building owner, Dr. Naim Khanafer.
In response to questions about the location, Barthwell told the audience that a certain square footage was necessary to support the program which is treatment with medications. She explained that the facility needed a commercial kitchen, a specific number of bathrooms and community space which made the site ideal for adaptation into a clinic.
Khanafer commented that he felt there is a great need in Westland and that the city had long been his choice even though he had been approved for a clinic in Waterford. He said after two years of research, they discovered that the core of the opioid problem in Wayne County, outside Detroit, is in Westland, Garden City and Dearborn Heights.
Barthwell explained that patients would be under constant supervision and would only be granted legitimate leave. She said none of the patients would be out on the street. She explained that to leave a facility of this nature, a patient was required to be escorted to a safe location.
She said patients will be subjected to background checks and that the facility has the right to turn patients away. The facility will be federally and locally regulated, she said.
Repeated questions regarding security prompted Khanafer to offer to have a security guard on-site at all times and to add video surveillance of the property.
Wild noted that the city has already approved the project and cannot withdraw that action. He admitted that he, too, “had doubts” when the project was proposed but urged the audience to give the facility a chance.
“I think we all agree that there's a need,” Wild said. “Cities not just in Michigan but all across the country. I do a lot with mayors on a national level and the biggest issue facing mayors in cities across the United States right now is opioids.”