Columbia Council joins opposition to methadone clinic


The Columbia Council has pledged to support the Oakland Mills community in its protest of a proposed methadone clinic that is scheduled to open in the village.

In a resolution the 10-member council unanimously approved Thursday night, the council voiced its opposition to a methadone facility opening in an Oakland Mills residential area or any similar site in Columbia.

"It's all of Columbia, not just the Village of Oakland Mills," council Chairman Miles Coffman told a group of about a dozen Oakland Mills residents at the council meeting. "We'll all work together on this one."

Coffman said the council would collaborate with Oakland Mills residents to contact local, state and federal officials to voice their opposition to the center planned at Stevens Forest Professional Center.

The clinic, Human Care Development Service, would be dispensing methadone - a synthetic opiate intended for heroin addicts to control withdrawal symptoms and curb their addiction - near four schools and three preschools or day care centers.

The clinic's president, Aktam Zahalka, had been working with Howard County Councilman David A. Rakes to try to find another location after facing overwhelming community opposition.

But after Zahalka and Rakes visited a number of sites Wednesday without finding a suitable location, Zahalka said he would open the clinic in Oakland Mills.

Zahalka has said the clinic's lease begins this month, but he does not know when the facility will open. The clinic is not fully approved.

Councilman Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake said a clinic dispensing methadone in a residential area is a "horrible idea," and the council should develop a plan to protest the facility.

"I think this is a good time for us to show what we can really be for the people of Columbia," Feldmark said.

Residents asked the council for its help Thursday, explaining that they feared the clinic would attract traffic, crime and drug dealers to the area.

"We cannot allow this to happen to any of Columbia's neighborhoods," resident Charlie Koppelman told the council.

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