ST. MATTHEWS, KY (WAVE) - The WAVE 3 Troubleshooter goes undercover to expose complaints about a local methadone clinic. The clinic is operating in the heart of St. Matthews and neighbors are complaining they are being overrun by crowds of clients coming to get their daily dose.
So they asked WAVE 3 Troubleshooter to work for them. And Troubleshooter Eric Flack uncovered just how bad the problem really is.
Neighbors in a Browns Lane Office Park say they are living next to a traffic jam of drug addiction.
"It's like mayhem," said E.J. Gary, who owns the units right behind the Center for Behavioral Health methadone clinic. "Absolute chaos."
We documented the problems with a hidden camera and videotaped swarms of clients streaming in and out of the clinic seven hours a day, seven days a week, from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The clinic is located in the heart of St. Matthews but you won't find it listed with the local business association. It sells methadone to drug addicts trying to quit heroin and other opiates. But the people who share the office park, like Bruce Lenz, owner of Lenz optical, say they are the ones who have hit rock bottom.
"They need to go somewhere else," Lenz said. "They need to be somewhere away from mainstream business."
Our hidden camera video showed clients of the clinic, who pay $100 a week for daily doses of methadone, walking off the streets, and emerging from the bushes that separate the office park from the parking lot next door. We also videotaped a pickup truck drive up on the sidewalk and over parking barricades just to make a bee line to a parking spot.
Le Petite Salon co-owner Alex Richardson flew outside to stop the pickup yelling at the pickup to "move it, get off the lot." The methadone client didn't like that and shouted back profanities. Richardson said stuff like that happens all the time.
In fact, the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department discovered St. Matthews Police have made around 40 police runs to the methadone clinic's address since March for things like disorderly conduct. That's about an incident every week outside of the ones handled by off duty police officers paid for by the clinic. But Mar Miller, program director for the Center for Behavioral Health, said the clinic is not overrunning its neighbors.
"I think we're doing what we can to provide good treatment for our patients," Miller said.
Miller admits some of those patients have behavior problems, which he said is common among recovering drug addicts. Miller said the center tries to work on those issues as part of the recovery process, and doesn't think the business is putting undue stress on its neighbors.
"We don't want to be a nuisance to the community," Miller said. "We want to work with the community."
During a single hour, the Troubleshooter Department counted 96 clients walk through the clinic's door. That was more than enough to keep the parking lot overflowing. We also uncovered Jefferson County property records that show last November the parent company of the clinic bought up the remaining office space in the building next door. That $673,000 investment that has neighbors, like Gary, believing the clinic is on the verge of expanding.
"If you can charge what he charges, times another 800 people," Gary said, "I mean you've got a gold mine."
Miller said the clinic it has no immediate plans to expand but won't shut the door on it down the road. It is that unknown that has business owners like Richardson feeling he has a fight on his hands.
"Everybody's going to have to take their property back," Richardson said. "We're going to have to defend what's ours."
The Troubleshooter Department contacted St. Matthews Mayor Bernie Bowling to see if there was anything he could do. Mayor Bowling said he'd rather not have the methadone clinic in St. Matthews, but right now his hands are tied.
"We can't discriminate," Bowling said. "You can't close them down if they are legal business."
Bowling said the only way the city can step is if the clinic's parking needs violate zoning restrictions, which is something they are keeping an eye on.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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