Controversial methadone clinic opens in Dade County
DADE COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) - More drug addicts are about to make the trip to Dade County and it's all in the name of getting them off drugs.
Depending on who you ask, that trip to Wildwood can also be the gateway for addicts to get a quick fix from the treatment drug known as methadone.
Methadone is perfectly legal when used in a facility like the new Tri-State Treatment. The owner says it helps to wean addicts from other drugs like Oxycontin and Heroine.
Some county leaders and residents argue that people will then just get hooked on the methadone itself.
"Drug addiction is rampant right now so if we can be somewhere to help people, why not here," Tri-State Treatment owner Melissa Hancock says.
Hancock started the licensing process last year to open the methadone clinic on Highway 299 in Wildwood. She says it's been a fight every step of the way.
"Overwhelming number of people that didn't want it," Dade County Executive Ted Rumley says.
County leaders argued it's not needed and say only 13 Dade County residents were seeking treatment at nearby clinics.
The commission submitted a letter to the Secretary of State, but nothing could be done. Without a county ordinance to stop it, it opened.
"We're definitely having to step up the extra patrol in that area because of the element that's coming in here. We have to keep our citizens safe," Dade County Sheriff Patrick Cannon says.
Sheriff Cannon worries inviting drug addicts into the county is inviting crime, fearing people will steal in order to afford the chance to get high on methadone.
"They're taking one bad drug to treat another addiction, to another bad drug," Sheriff Cannon said.
"Once you're on a stable dose, we keep you stable for a little while then we decrease your dose and detox you off of it," Hancock says.
The clinic isn't near homes. It's right off the interstate. Hancock says it's convenient for out-of-staters needing weaned off drugs.
"It's a very rewarding job," Hancock says.
Opponents argue that clientele is likely people maxing out dosages at several clinics at a time.
"A one-stop shop for people with addiction problems to get drugs," Sheriff Cannon says.
The commission recently passed an ordinance that would require county approval for any clinics to open in the future.
To be clear, the drug used for treatment is a narcotic. Hancock says it is addictive.
She wouldn't say how many patients have been treated since opening two weeks ago.