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Havre de Grace institutes six-month moratorium on new pain management clinics in city

The City of Havre de Grace is taking a six-month “pause” in issuing permits for any new pain management clinics in the community as officials conduct research and develop potential changes to the municipal zoning code related to such clinics.

“The idea of this moratorium is ... so that [the department of] planning and the City Council can do the necessary research and study to consider all aspects, to include the definitions of what pain management clinics truly are,” City Council President David Glenn said Monday after making a motion to adopt a resolution instituting the moratorium.

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Pain management clinics, according to WebMD, are health care facilities that focus on the diagnosis and management of chronic pain.

The council approved, unanimously, Resolution 2021-04 during its meeting Monday evening. The moratorium is currently in effect, Shane Grimm, director of planning, said in an email Wednesday.

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“The City of Havre de Grace has received a number of inquiries from individuals interested in opening clinics within the City,” according to Grimm, who said that the moratorium will not affect existing clinics that are operating in the city legally.

“The City does not currently have regulations tailored towards pain management clinics,” he wrote. “The six-month moratorium is a pause to give the Department of Planning sufficient time to study the matter and, if necessary, propose appropriate regulations to the City Council.”

The city will not, over the next six months, handle applications or issue construction permits and certificates of occupancy for pain management clinics, according to the resolution.

Some of the reasons for the moratorium laid out in the resolution include the recent “positive trend” in Havre de Grace’s housing market, with houses being renovated or new dwellings being built in downtown neighborhoods, and an increase in property assessments, plus recent annexations of land for residential development.

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The resolution also cites how the city is taking part in federal litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors regarding “concerns about the improper distribution and misuse of certain pain management drugs and the impact of such misuse on the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City.”

Havre de Grace is among the local jurisdictions, such as the Harford County government and the Town of Bel Air, that have in recent years joined multi-district federal litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors as local governments battle a scourge of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

People who become addicted to opiates such as heroin have, in many cases, started down the path to addiction through powerful prescription pain medications.

The six-month moratorium gives the city enough time for the planning director to prepare a report, with recommendations on potential legislation for the City Council’s consideration, according to the resolution.

“It just gives us a chance to research and evaluate what the possibilities are and what will be acceptable within the zoning guidelines,” Glenn said of pain management clinics.

The council president stressed Wednesday that the city is in “the infancy stages” of the process. He noted that officials want to “clearly define what pain management is.”

“[It’s] just a six-month pause to make sure we get our ducks in a row, to make sure we’re doing all the right things for all the right reasons within the zoning guidelines,” Glenn said.

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