METHADONE CLINIC: THE PLANET TO THE RESCUE ONCE AGAIN, WHILE THE BB AND THE DD TAKE A SNOOZE … MANY QUESTIONS LINGER ON QUESTIONABLE LOCATION OWNED BY A TOP-TIER GOB ASSOCIATE … plus … METH INFORMATION AND A FIRST-HAND REPORT BY GUEST COLUMNIST
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2012) — Our staff on THE PLANET is we, ourselves, and us. Period. We are assisted, of course, by the largest and most comprehensive network of informants, spies, gumshoes, and secret agents (including those in the coveted Z Agents, who have license to thrill).
We also get a push from various guest writers and columnists, who from time to time send us relevant and well-written pieces that we judge to be of interest to our growing readership. Nonetheless, we keep THE PLANET lean and mean, able to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down rapidly. Low overhead means the ability to act quickly and decisively. As a “one man mob scene,” as Albany Times-Union columnist Felix Carroll described us, we can only do so much.
We wonder how it is, then, that the Newspaper Once Known As The Berkshire Eagle (NOKATBE) — now better known for its stupefying mediocrity as The Boring Broadsheet, missed the Dwyer-Adamo-Spectrum meth story until we uncovered it without breaking a sweat.
As some of our readers have pointed out publicly and privately, without THE PLANET’s work, the out-of-court compromise deal between the City of Pittsfield and Spectrum Health Systems to locate a methadone clinic — on land that just so coincidentally or not is owned by 1st Rank GOBer Dr. Phil Adamo — would have been signed and carried out in secret.
Snooze Control for the Local Media, the BB and the DD
Where was the BB? With their newsroom full of editors and reporters, you mean to say not one of them learned about this pending deal? There can be only two possibilities: (1) They were (and are) so out-of-the-loop that they didn’t have a clue this was coming down or (2) they knew about it and were under orders by the GOB not to print. Without knowing any better, THE PLANET believes the first to be the case, that the BB, again, simply got caught asleep at the wheel.
We did express satisfaction and exhale a derisive chuckle when yesterday’s story in that dreadful rag, written by our good friend Tony Dobrowolski, ran on page one, top of the fold. Gee, it made the BB look like an enterprising outfit. Neither the BB nor Tony made mention that THE PLANET broke the story. We also heard that the Downtown Diva mentioned the issue on her radio show, also without giving proper credit to the only media that had the connections and the courage.
Ripped off by the BB and the DD: THE PLANET should file for combat pay!
The DD told THE PLANET that she didn’t know we broke the story. She claims to have heard about it two weeks ago “from a city hall Stooley.” First, THE STOOLEY is under exclusive contract with THE PLANET. Second, if this is true, it suggests to us that DD had the story for two weeks and did nothing. How does that add to her credibility and her championing of talk radio in and for the bedraggled city? The last thing Pittsfield needs is another media cheerleader whose idea of controversy is the upcoming Rotary Pancake Breakfast.
It is one of the unwritten rules of journalism and the news business. If you do a “follow” on a story that a rival outlet first broke, you must mention that rival and credit them. Professionals pay attention to rules like this. Amateurs and hacks tend not to.
Many Questions Have Surfaced About This Odd Deal
There are a million questions that have surfaced in light of the news. These include:
* Who requested confidentiality that Mayor Dan Bianchi cites to explain why his hands are tied? Was it the city, Spectrum, or Dr. Adamo?
* Is Bianchi bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement signed by his predecessor?
* Who requested that the terms of the deal be kept secret, from the prying eyes of the public, who will only be footing a large part of the bill for the methadone clinic?
* Why was the Adamo property on Stoddard Avenue selected? What were the criteria? Did Adamo’s many tie-ins with the GOB (city physician, service on multiple boards) factor into the decision? Is that the reason for secrecy?
* Were other locations looked at? If so, which ones, and why were they not selected?
* Did Adamo lobby on behalf of his Stoddard Avenue property? Was that the real reason the Summer Street location was so quickly and adamantly opposed?
* Why didn’t the city have the decency to get back to Dwyer Funeral Home after it had made its decision on the location of the methadone clinic?
* Is it true that the city can’t do anything about locating a meth clinic in Pittsfield? It has been reported as such, but has that claim been verified?
* Is Spectrum’s claim that it is a “not-for-profit educational facility” legitimate?
* Why has State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who represents that portion of Ward 1, been so silent on this matter?
* What are the assurances given by Spectrum that it will take into account the residential nature of the location?
The list goes on and on. We’ll stop there.
A Story that is ‘Sooooo Pittsfield’
This story is “soooo Pittsfield,” as one of our sources put it: A business that attracts an undesirable population (heroin addicts) that is allowed to locate in a residential area (North and Stoddard) on property owned for long for sale by a Top Level GOB associate (Adamo). Nothing out of the ordinary there, unfortunately, which, as former city councilor and respected civic leader Charles Garivaltis has mentioned, is why Pittsfield has become the sewer catch-basin of Western Massachusetts’ riff raff — the drug pushers and users, the welfare and “gimme” crowd, the uneduated and under-educated, the Sec. 8 freeloaders, the indigent, and all of there assorted brethren, who can be seen on display at all hours of the day or night in beautiful downtown Pittsfield.
Another question, of course, is whether the city should have a meth clinic at all. Somehow, the health care industry has perpetuated the image that methadone addiction, which is what the clinic deals in, is somehow safer than and preferable to heroin addiction. That is not the case.
As for society’s so-called responsibility to get addicts help, that takes a distant second place to the addict’s desire to kick the stuff in the first place. Unfortunately, methadone clinics tend to attract customers who are looking not to kick their habits but to perpetuate them. Besides, since when is a person’s choicegoing “cold turkey” the responsibility of taxpayers, who will see another commercial property taken off the tax rolls? Spectrum Health Systems, you see, is a “non-profit” business — a highly profitable one at that.
Information in Methadone: Not a Pretty Picture
The website about.com has this following information on methadone:
— It often causes sudden death by heart failure, even at typical therapeutic levels. This side-effect isn’t rare, and studies at the University of Oregon show that it occurs at a statistically significant level beyond chance.
— On June 23, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a health advisory concerning the prescribing of methadone because of side-effects such as dangerous changes in heartbeat, and slow and shallow breathing that the user might not notice.
— Because of the increased availability of the drug, methadone overdosing has become common.
— Methadone creates addiction. Heroin addicts still remain under the control of a potentially fatal drug. Methadone allows an addict to continue his or her addiction in a socially sanctioned way for the profit of the treatment center and the waste of society. Meth addicts often use the drug to pursue other avenues into the drug trade. This works because “clients” of clinics obviously have connections. People share information.
Methadone: “Significant Dangers of Its Own’
THE PLANET also shares this information from Pat Moore Foundation, a drug rehabilitation center:
Methadone therapy is often thought of as the standard treatment for heroin addiction. Unfortunately, using methadone has significant dangers of its own. In effect, methadone treatment is simply replacing one dangerous addiction with another. Methadone is just as addictive as heroin, and methadone withdrawal is often more intense than heroin withdrawal. Blind studies have compared the effects of both drugs, and the majority of users were unable to distinguish between them.
One of the most dangerous problems with methadone is the potential for overdose. Like heroin, methadone users can develop a tolerance to the drug. Consequently, higher and higher doses may be taken to achieve the same results. Too high of a dose can be fatal. At present, twice as many drug deaths are attributed to methadone as to heroin. Methadone deaths are also often related to taking methadone with other drugs like alcohol. Those who have respiratory illnesses and other diseases are also more likely to experience dangerous methadone side effects.
Methadone addiction is a certain consequence of methadone rehabilitation. Many patients in methadone treatment programs will continue using methadone for years if not indefinitely. Fear of methadone withdrawal prevents such patients from living a drug-free existence. As most methadone clinics will only dispense one dose a day, many users will turn to illicit sources for higher dosages as they build a tolerance to the drug. These sources often include black market dealers. In some cases, users will return to heroin to make up the gap or sell their methadone to get heroin.
There Goes the Neighborhood
That’s one chilling report: “Methadone addiction is a certain consequence of methadone treatment.” Patients often will continue use “for years” and maybe indefinitely. In short, the establishment of a methadone clinic will almost surely result in the worsening, if not the deterioration, of the host neighborhood.
Is this the kind of business we want anywhere in town, let alone a residential neighborhood? Does Pittsfield want a meth clinic that will certainly attract hundreds of clients, many of them out of town or out of state, who will gather in “critical mass” in numbers that will severely compromise the quality of life for all who live, work, and play in the area? Does it want to cluster an addictive population that statistics say will remain addicted for years, if not indefinitely? Has the city explored all avenues of resistance? If so, and it be be allowed, why in such a prominent place, next to a long-time local business (a business that has become a city institution), in an area loaded with families and kids.
Spectrum says it expects 150 addicts to visit the clinic between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m., every day. You know that they will use the Dwyer Funeral Home parking lot, even though the business has said no to parking. Dwyer will have to constantly patrol the lot, and then have to deal with the addict owners of illegally parked vehicles. That will result in trouble. You know know it.
Dwyer is fighting for the integrity of its business. The city needs to stand with them. The Spectrum clinic cannot be allowed to locate in the Adamo building, confidential agreement or not. Before this deal is allowed, far more investigation needs to be done into just how and why Adamo’s property was selected over so many others? We can assume that Spectrum doesn’t care one way or another. It just wants a location so it can conduct its business. THE PLANET understands that? So who would have an interest in seeing Adamo’s property selected? Adamo, obviously, and given his influence in city circles, it is reasonably to ask if he used that influence improperly so that his property would be selected.
Mind you, there is no evidence that has yet surfaced to indicate this is what has happened, and THE PLANET is not asserting that this has happened. We are simply stating an obvious concern. Until we have more information, and until the terms of the confidentiality agreement are made public, those questions will linger and the citizens of Pittsfield will, once again, have good cause to wonder if their government is corrupt beyond all saving.
THE PLANET has initiated an important community discussion on this issue. One of the most creative comes from a source who suggested two better locations:
* Herman Alexander’s bar on Lyman Steet. According to an investigation by the Pittsfield Police Department, that bar is known and frequented by a large chunk of the city’s drug traffic. Heroin addicts seeking “treatment” would already be familiar with the location.
* Winesap Avenue, where Peter Moore was struck and nearly killed by a vehicle driven by Meredith Nilan. Our respondent says “this location would be perfect. People there, when they run over other people, mistake humans for deer or dogs. The addicts would therefore not be recognizable and would be mistaken for either of those animals.”
THE PLANET appreciates the withering social commentary. A more practical location would be, as one reader suggested, out on Dan Fox Drive, near the former National Archives. The location is out of the way, serviced by public transportation, on a major artery, not in a residential, with no schools nearby, and plenty of parking. Other locations on Fourth Street and the original Summer Street location also would seem more practical and better suited than Stoddard Avenue next to Dwyer’s.
In this vein, THE PLANET shares this relevant guest column, first posted on the website Justice for Henry.
METHADONE CLINICS: DON’T BE FOOLED
By JUSTICE FOR HENRY
Special to PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
I hope that The Seattle Times wins a Pulitzer for its recent reporting around the methadone OD epidemic in Washington State. These journalists’ work was so solid that state lawmakers are now preparing an emergency warning to be distributed to that state’s prescribers on the unique dangers that methadone poses compared to – and especially in combination with – other (already dangerous) opioid painkillers.
From today’s story about lawmakers’ concern:
Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, [said] that she was troubled even by those cases in which methadone had combined with other drugs to cause a fatal overdose. “I don’t really care that the coroner isn’t willing to say. This was caused by methadone,” she said. “If the person has a toxic level, and they were taking methadone and other drugs known to have a synergistic, respiratory depressive effect, and they quit breathing, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know we might have a problem.”
Here in Tennessee, methadone is also killing an alarming number of our fellow citizens. In fact, methadone is the drug most likely to be listed in Tennesseans’ OD death autopsy reports, yet no one seems to be paying any meaningful attention.
Despite its excessive risks, methadone is now routinely prescribed as a take-home painkiller, a dangerous trend that the Seattle Times chose to focus on in its reporting.
However, the other half (or more) of the story is that there exists a national, for profit industry comprised of hugely lucrative, local methadone “treatment” clinics. These “rehab clinics” manage to fly totally under the radar because the media and thus, the public have bought the PR spin that these often sketchy storefront methadone clinics should be considered in the same health care category as comprehensive and responsibly run chemical dependency treatment programs such as the Betty Ford Center orHazelden.
There is not much question that for many opiate addicts, a properly run and administered methadone weaning program – in combination with the other psychiatric and therapeutic care their addiction may require – can help them recover. However, methadone is inarguably a uniquely dangerous drug when administered carelessly or prescribed recklessly, or when it’s diverted into the wrong hands or abused – as it increasingly is by opiate addicts (anyone who tells you that methadone won’t get you high is grossly uninformed or a liar). And when a clinic is run as a for-profit business, an inherent and medically unethical disincentive exists to ever wean patients from this highly addictive substitute prescription opiate.
Whether run for profit or as a nonprofit, any clinic dispensing and prescribing this particularly risky medication should be held to a uniquely high standard of care designed to prevent diversion, unsafe prescribing and abuse.
Unfortunately, when it comes to this nation’s profit-driven “opioid treatment centers” (the terminology preferred by the various methadone clinic trade association lobbyists), the rapidly growing body of data- driven evidence clearly makes the case that even a minimal standard of care is not being met nearly often enough.
Although state and federal regulations are nominally in place – regulations ostensibly designed to prevent the growing number of overdose deaths by methadone clinic patients, as well as the deaths (like my teenager’s) that occur when criminal clinic patients purposely divert the drug for resale – these regulations are illusory. In fact, there is no comprehensive or strategic system federally or within individual states to ensure compliance by all of these for-profit methadone clinics, and many of them go years at a time without an inspection. Even when clinic patients do die of overdose, or when lax oversight by a clinic allows a patient to divert the drug for resale, thus killing someone else, no one generally holds these “opioid treatment centers” accountable.
And while it’s true that these generally for-profit, cash-only methadone clinics around the country are required by regulation to have an M.D. directly overseeing all prescriptions, there is apparently nothing preventing a physician who, for example, previously had his license suspended for things like inappropriate methadone prescribing practices connected to a patient’s death, or improperly performing cosmetic surgery to subsequently serve as the “Medical Director” of a methadone clinic in another part of the same state.
Methadone is arguably the most deadly of all factors in the unprecedented opioid death public safety emergency currently wreaking havoc on the U.S.. However, despite this particular drug’s uniquely dangerous properties and supply chain, its role remains pretty much under-the-radar in terms of media coverage and public awareness.
Until methadone diversion by clinic patients killed my teenage child, I was just as clueless about this issue as most of you reading this probably are. But I am hopeful that with more high quality investigative reporting like The Seattle Times delivered to its own community recently, Americans will finally begin noticing just how many friends, neighbors, kids, coworkers, parents and siblings this specific drug is now killing month after deadly month.
We thank Justice for Henry for this contribution.
THE PLANET IS NOT DONE WITH THIS STORY. STAY TUNED FOR MORE KEY INFORMATION, COMING TO YOU FROM THE ONLY LOCAL MEDIA SOURCE THAT REMAINS UNBOUGHT AND UNBOSSED.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.