CleanSlate Does Not Belong on Brigham Street [OPINION]
CleanSlate Outpatient Addiction Medicine, which operates a drug addiction treatment center on Grape Street, will appear before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board this month in hopes of winning approval to relocate to a much larger building at 52-54 Brigham Street.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell opposes the move, as do the 10 members of the city council who were present for last Tuesday night's meeting where a resolution was unanimously approved in opposition to CleanSlate's relocation plans. The council remains divided, however, over its role in the process.
The council had previously tried to enact a broad ban on the siting of new drug addiction treatment centers in residential neighborhoods, but in vetoing the measure Mitchell felt the body had overstepped its legal authority to enact zoning ordinances on its own. Five members attempted to override the veto while five voted to sustain it. This clears the way for CleanSlate to seek permits from Planning and Zoning to proceed with its plans for Brigham Street.
WBSM News reports "CleanSlate, recently featured in the Wall Street Journal, operates opioid and alcohol addiction centers in 11 states and offers medication-assisted treatment, including the use of Suboxone. The treatment is led by physicians and licensed medical providers."
Mitchell tells me New Bedford is already home to nearly two dozen methadone and other drug treatment programs while few such programs exist in the surrounding suburbs. That includes the existing CleanSlate location on Grape Street.
New Bedford is a hub for the region. Economics, geography, and demand make it a cog in the drug trade. As a result, we have a role to play in providing necessary services to those afflicted by that trade. We should not, however, be expected to bear the burden on our own. We should also not be expected to surrender residential neighborhoods to treatment centers when there is strong opposition in those neighborhoods.
Brigham Street is simply the wrong location for this type of facility. CleanSlate should work with the Mitchell Administration and members of the New Bedford City Council to find a more suitable location in the region for its facility. Perhaps one of the surrounding communities might offer up a site suggestion.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.