Freeport residents will discuss a possible change to the town charter, part of which could stipulate possible sites for a methadone clinic – should such a facility ever want to locate in town – during a Planning Board public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29.

The meeting is the result of the board’s concerns that such clinics, as well as marijuana-grow operations and marijuana dispensaries, are not addressed in the town charter. An amendment to the charter would stipulate locations for such facilities.

The Planning Board, aware that addiction to heroin and pain killers is a growing problem in Maine, met June 1 to discuss the topic. The board discussed Desert Road, located in a commercial zone near an Interstate 295 exit and entrance, as one possible location for an opioid clinic.

Chairwoman Wendy Caisse chose to use the term opioid clinics instead of methadone clinics, because the facilities use Subuxone as well as methadone to treat people addicted to opioids. Caisse asked Town Planner Donna Larson, the town staffer on the board, to come up with language for a proposed charter change.

Both Caisse and Larson visited methadone clinics in Portland recently to learn more about them.

“A methadone clinic downtown right near L.L. Bean is not what people would want to see,” Caisse said. “Near the highway is a better choice.”

The board discussed the marijuana issue, but did not reach any conclusions as to where a dispensary or grow operation might best be located. There are no dispensaries in town, but there are grow operations, according to Sgt. Nathan Goodman of the Freeport police.

Larson vouched for the Desert Road location for a clinic.

“To me, it seems like a good place to start, and we’ll see what happens,” she said. “This is easy on (the highway), easy off.”

Caisse pointed out at the outset of the meeting that the town has no right to deny methadone clinics and medical marijuana dispensaries in town, but should amend the town charter to have control over their locations. Larson said that under present zoning definitions, dispensaries would be considered retail operations, clinics as professional offices and marijuana grow operations as agricultural.

“If it’s not stated specifically in an ordinance, it’s allowed,” Caisse said.

 Goodman, a former Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officer, answered questions posed by the board during Wednesday’s meeting. Goodman was asked if disruptions at methadone clinics are common.

“Those calls go to patrol first,” Goodman said. “It’s a tough situation because you have a clinic that is necessary, and within that need you have people who are in a tough spot. Sometimes there are flareups in parking lots and other disturbances. The (MDEA) force gets called for higher needs.”

Board member Allan Labos, who works and owns property in Portland, said he would expect calls for public services to increase if a clinic located in Freeport. Car accidents are correlating issue in Portland, Labos said.

“We would see an increase in those types of calls, especially in the summer,” he said.

Larson questioned if there is enough demand for an opioid clinic in Freeport for someone to go through the process of establishing one.

“They need clients to have access, either via public transportation or walking distance,” Goodman said.

Caisse said from her visit to a Portland methadone clinic, she learned that such businesses are just beginning to take private insurance, and clients are covered by MaineCare. Clinic owners have a good rapport with police, Caisse and Larson both attested. The clinics are audited regularly, and there is a big uptick in employed people in their client base.

The Freeport Planning Board will conduct a public hearing on opioid clinics on June 29 in the Town Council chambers.


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