Holmesburg United Against Methadone Clinic

Tamara Larsen, a barber at 10 Buck Cuts, is upset about the corner of Decatur and Frankford Avenue.

"What's going to happen when 500 people are in line," Larsen said pointing to the adjacent vacant space. "The neighborhood has come together. We won't stop fighting. We are strong people."

For the past two years, Larsen and other members of her north-east Philadelphia Holmesburg neighborhood have been fighting to stop a methadone clinic from renting space at 7900 Frankford Avenue.

"Opiate addiction is a problem. People have been whipped into a frenzy over fear," said Carl Primavera, attorney for the owners of the proposed methadone clinic, The Healing Way."

Primavera and his clients finally got some good news last week when the Court of Common Pleas ruled in their favor by reinstating a permit to operate the clinic, a reversal of a Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustments earlier decision.

"It's really a slap in the face," said Larsen. "You think you've won but you really haven't. Is this really happening?"

The Healing Way is owned by Alan Yanovsky and Eric Janovski. Although, it's their first time operating a methadone clinic, they have some experience working for a facility, according to Primavera. The two plan to hire "high-level onsite physicians."

Primavera maintains that the state and city have identified the Holmesburg area as a place where there is a need for opiate treatment.

"People coming will be from the general area. It is a convenient location that will have a positive impact," Primavera said. "I don't believe it will be long before they open. They will be open any day."

As a display of their concerns, the owners of 10 Buck Cuts erected a sign above the barber shop featuring an image of a grim reaper that reads -- "Don't let the methadone clinic kill our community."

A daycare and Christian school sit directly across the street.

"I'm just very sad for everyone," said Michelle Casey, owner of the Guppies Child Care Center. "The community can come together and find a solution and not have it rammed down our throats."

The idea of the clinic has Casey concerned about the safety of her staff and children. She is already thinking about what safety measures she would likely put in place and their costs, if the clinic were to open.

A methadone clinic is established to dispense methadone to those who have abused heroin or other opiates, according to the Center for Disease Control. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2011 that 4.2 million Americans (age 12 or older) had used heroin at least once in their lives.

"People are passionately opposed to this project," said State Rep.Kevin Boyle. "I think the judge got it wrong. I'm strongly opposed to the decision. If it did open, it would be a nightmare."

The Holmesburg Bakery has been open on Frankford Avenue since 1900. It's a fixture in the close-knit community, known for cream donuts and buttercake.

"This neighborhood does not need it. We have our own problems," said George Gouger, the third generation bakery owner. "It's a shame they have to try and enforce something we don't want."

Gouger and the bakery staff were in shock when NBC10.com visited yesterday to get reaction to the recent developments. There was uniform disbelief that the court would reverse the decision.

"This is ridiculous," Gouger exclaimed.

Boyle cites the lack of parking in the heart of the residential rowhouse community as the number one reason as to why he thinks the clinic is not a good fit. Fred Moore, former president of the Holmesburg Civic Association, agrees.

Primavera called the parking concerns a "roost." He said many clients will use public transportation and the commercial zoning doesn't have a parking requirement. Primavera added the owners plan to host workshops to educate the community on addiction and treatment.

The Northeast Times Star reported another methadone clinic was approved to open on State Road, run by NorthEast Treatment Centers in April. Boyle said there are already two clinics in a two mile radius.

"It's disappointing. But, it will wake the neighborhood up to fight again," said Joe DeFelice, president of the Mayfair Community Development Corporation. DeFelice stated the neighborhood plans to file an appeal to the court's decision.

"We will continue to fight," Boyle exclaimed.

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