At a May 31 Warren meeting continuing the review of CRC's application, planning board members were visibly distressed. "I think my friends and neighbors are going to hate me if I vote in favor of this," Chairman Peter Krakoff told the crowd. "Is this a great thing for the town of Warren? No, I don't think it is, but the ADA protects people looking for these services."
"It will go to court and, probably, we will lose," added board member Joseph Berkenshire.
Attorney Strong, representing the abutters to the proposed clinic, objected to the apparent deference to the threatened lawsuit. "I've never been in a proceeding with so much intimidation from the applicant!" he said.
Warren residents made emotional pleas to the board, begging them not to crack under the pressure of the looming ADA suit, expressing concerns about traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, proximity to residences, and adequate disposal of sanitary waste.
Krakoff tried to close public comments several times as tensions rose, repeatedly striking the gavel and calling out, "You are out of order!" as local residents refused to stop speaking.
McKee and CRC ultimately won the reasonable accommodation argument. On June 5, the Warren Planning Board voted 3-2 to approve the CRC project. At the request of the town, two Knox County sheriff's deputies were present and no public comment was allowed.
But the battle doesn't end there. On June 19, attorney Strong filed an appeal with the Warren Board of Appeals. Strong argues that the Warren Planning Board erred in its findings that CRC was entitled to "reasonable accommodation," that the CRC proposal did not satisfy local ordinances, and that the board should not have felt bound to approval by the ADA suit mediation.
A REPEATING PATTERN
CRC is no stranger to the power of an ADA suit. A CRC methadone clinic in Indiana provides an ominous parallel. The battle between the government of Clark County, Indiana, and CRC began when the Southern Indiana Treatment Facility outgrew its original site and needed to move.
CRC sued its host city, Jeffersonville, for denying a pair of zoning variances for the proposed new location in 2006. The suit was withdrawn and eventually another spot was found.
When Clark County filed a lawsuit demanding clinic closure until traffic congestion and parking issues at the new site could be resolved, CRC responded with an ADA suit, claiming discrimination.
The clinic has remained in operation and continues to battle Indiana government officials as maintenance, security, traffic and pedestrian safety issues arise as the city un-willingly hosts the expanding clinic.
As was the case in Indiana, the problem is that additional methadone treatment providers, arguably, are needed. The prescription addiction epidemic has taken a toll on Maine's health-care budget, with MaineCare covering the majority of all methadone patients. Coverage includes mileage reimbursement, so the farther patients have to travel for care, the higher the cost to the state.
Emery's son Robert ceased treatment and relapsed because of the long commute to the Waterville clinic; he didn't qualify for MaineCare funding.
Robert eventually continued treatment at clinics in Bangor and South Portland and then found a local doctor certified to administer methadone.