Despite the passing of a bill intended to prevent state-licensed medical facilities from residing within 1,000 feet of schools or dwellings, an opioid treatment facility remains open on South Camp Meade Drive, and some Linthicum residents want to know why.
Bill No. 14-15, passed in 2015, states medical facilities, like detoxification and substance abuse treatment centers, are prohibited in locations near schools or residential neighborhoods. Phaeton Health Group, an addiction medicine practice that prescribes suboxone—a medication to assist with opioid addiction—sits within walking distance from Linthicum Elementary School, the light rail and homes.
Community members and organizations like the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association (LSIA) voiced concerns about the facility's location and have taken them to the local government. In an October LSIA meeting, County Executive Steve Schuh said the center was in an "inappropriate location" and an investigation to determine if the clinic was in violation of the bill would begin.
"The county did an investigation supported by Zoning Enforcement and the Police Department," said Schuh spokesman Owen McEvoy. "We know from a flyer circulating in the community the office space was being advertised as a site for treating patients with suboxone. However, the doctors within the medical practice never distributed suboxone from the office space."
They did write prescriptions for suboxone for three to five patients during the year of 2017, he said. Ultimately, Zoning and Enforcement and the Police Department found no evidence that suboxone was being dispensed from this location.
"People were shocked to find out that not only did the County Executive's office fail to shut Phaeton Health down, but that the county had actually issued a permit to allow Phaeton Health to continue to operate across the street from Linthicum Elementary school and next to residences," said Kevin Plessner, secretary of the LSIA.
When Plessner attempted to contact the County Executive office about the clinic's continued presence, he says the office was at first compliant with giving information about the county's stance on the facility. Since the shift and the decision to allow Phaeton Health Group to still operate was made, however, Plessner says he has been cut off.
"The County Executive's staff initially provided great communication with me about the business," Plessner said. "However, once the permit was issued and LSIA began asking questions about the reasons for the change in position, the County Executive's communications staff informed me that no answers to our questions would be forthcoming from their offices."
Linthicum residents aren't the only ones who are frustrated about the clinic's presence. Anne Arundel County Councilman Pete Smith, who co-sponsored the bill, believes the suboxone clinic goes against the legislation he helped to create.
"The County Administration, certainly not my office, granted them a use permit," said Smith of Phaeton Health Group. "I'm still under the assumption that the bill we passed a couple of years ago would have been grounds for them to be closed, because in my mind, they are still a state-licensed medical facility."
Smith stated he discouraged the Office of Law against issuing the facility the permit, and suggested the office instead allow Phaeton Health Group to take the issue to court and prove that they are not in violation of the bill.
"That is not what they have chosen to do and I am completely against the clinic, and feel it is in violation of the bill we passed in 2015," said Smith.
Schuh's office maintains, however, that since the clinic is not distributing suboxone it is legally permitted to operate.
"Phaeton Health Group received a Certificate of Use for a Professional Office which allows them to operate their occupational medicine practice. The doctors do hold a waiver from the State of Maryland to prescribe suboxone. They do not have a license from the State of Maryland to dispense suboxone. The doctors communicated to us they are not a suboxone clinic; they are not treating patients with suboxone. They are providing Occupational Medicine services."
McEvoy said the County Executive's office asked the clinic to remove its practice from the online Suboxone Directory and that it is actively working to get it removed.
Plessner says he has requested an explanation of the legal analysis that was used to reach the County Executive's decision and hopes he will receive a response.
"LSIA plans to continue to push this issue until there is an acceptable resolution," said Plessner. "Since the county has refused to act by bringing an appropriate lawsuit against Phaeton Health Group, we will need to be the eyes and ears for our community."
Smith also suggests that Linthicum residents take action against the clinic.
"The people of Linthicum can continue to email the County Executive and tell him to shut it down."
Concert Under the Stars
The North County Band and Orchestra will present its third annual "Concert Under the Stars: A Salute to the Cinema," May 18 at 8 pm. Music and film fans are invited to watch clips from classic and modern movies on a 40-foot screen, while student musicians play the accompanying scores.
Before the show begins, from 4 to 8 p.m., food trucks will be in the school's parking lot, including Crab Town, Greek on the Street and Park Deli. Admission is $5 and the performance will be held in the William Wentworth Stadium. The concert will take place inside the school's auditorium in the case of inclement weather.