Gathering last night in opposition to a methadone clinic proposed for a business park off Dorsey Road, angry Elkridge neighbors complained they had not been notified of it by the state, as promised by health officials.
After residents of Columbia's Oakland Mills village fought a plan to open a similar facility near four schools, state health department officials promised last week to publicly notify communities and elected officials about any proposals for new methadone clinics.
But Lisa Sheppard, who lives in the Scarlet Oaks subdivision across the street from the business park, said she found out about the plan in a July 17 article in the Howard County Times - not from the state.
"It's only fair to the community that they know the kind of businesses moving to the community," Del. Frank S. Turner, who represents the area, said after the meeting.
Neal Berch, owner and operator of three other clinics in Maryland, has rented space at the Dorsey Business Center on Douglas Legum Road, just south of Route 100.
Berch applied to the state Office of Health Care Quality in May for permission to dispense methadone - a synthetic opiate given to heroin addicts to help control withdrawal symptoms and curb their habit - at the facility to be named Elkridge Rehabilitation Services. He did not attend last night's meeting.
"We have no problem with treatment. People who are addicted to [heroin] need help - but not here," said County Councilman David A. Rakes, who represents the area and east Columbia, where the Oakland Mills clinic was proposed. On July 18, the state announced that the Oakland Mills clinic's application had been withdrawn.
Turner told residents last night there were differences between the two situations. The Elkridge site, for example, is along a road with a mix of business and industrial uses - near but not surrounded by homes like the Columbia location.
"Your position is a lot weaker," he said. "I'm just being candid and frank with you."
But this dismayed some of the 40 people in attendance. "It sounded like it's a fait accompli" - that the clinic would come regardless of residents' opposition, said Helen Homon of Scarlet Oaks.
"I am going to fight for you within the law," Turner insisted later.
The state regulates the operation of clinics licensed for methadone maintenance. It does not consider community impact or opinion when evaluating applications.
Rakes said that he had taken the Columbia owner to six or seven sites within Elkridge, including the site of a former clinic in Annapolis Junction. All the sites were more isolated from residences, Rakes said.
When Rakes said that the clinic would attract patients from Baltimore and other areas where programs were full, some in the room did not think that was appropriate.
"It still makes more sense to take the medicine to the sick," said Aaron Dailey, who lives in Lennox Park.
"Methadone is not going to be contained within those four walls," said Karen Hall, a Scarlet Oaks resident and nursing home administrator who has worked with methadone programs before. She was concerned that neighborhood children waiting at public bus stops along Dorsey Road would be exposed to "a certain element" attracted by clinics. Suzy Cline was concerned by a suggestion that the clinic would be more appropriate in the Troy Hill Business Center, which is south of her community of Hunt Club Estates.
"I don't want it any closer to mine, either," she said.