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Judge dismisses methadone clinic suit against Johnson City

June 14th, 2013 9:14 am by Rex Barber

Judge dismisses methadone clinic suit against Johnson City

GREENEVILLE — A federal judge this week dismissed a methadone clinic provider's suit against Johnson City claiming zoning ordinances were too restrictive and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tri-Cities Holdings LLC filed the suit April 19, claiming Johnson City’s refusal to grant a permit for the clinic to locate at 4 Wesley Court caused financial damage and forced opiate-addicted residents to travel unnecessary distances to seek treatment.

The suit also alleged that city officials had refused to meet with TCH owners to discuss “a reasonable accommodation regarding 4 Wesley Court.”

In dismissing the suit Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer concluded that the plaintiff's claims were not "ripe for decision" in part because it was impossible for the court to know whether the harm alleged would ever happen.

Greer said the claims were speculative until Tri-Cities holdings could prove that the city's ordinance actually prevents the clinic from opening. (Read the full opinion).

Steve Kester, a co-owner of Tri-Cities Holdings, filed a certificate of need for the clinic back in March.

At the time, Kester said a clinic could be in place by year’s end should the Tennessee Health and Development Agency grant the certificate.

Kester has said his own research shows that around 1,000 people in the Tri-Cities region are seeking opiate-addiction treatment and that prescription medication abuse exists in the area. The closest locations for these 1,000 patients to get methadone treatments is in Knoxville or Asheville, N.C., Kester said, adding that translates to a 100- or 200-mile round trip depending on location.

A public hearing on the clinic was held in May. People in support or and in opposition to the clinic showed up to voice their feelings on the issue.

Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency board members were present at this meeting and will meet again June 26 in Nashville to either approve or decline the certificate.

Greer dismissed the clinic suit without prejudice, which means the issues brought up can be revisited at a later date if the plaintiffs so choose.

Anyone desiring to make comments regarding the clinic may mail them to the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, Frost Building, Third Floor, 161 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN 37243 to the attention of Mark Farber.

Related articles:

Both sides of methadone clinic issue have say at public hearing

Johnson City methadone clinic opposition grows

Topics Page: Methadone clinic proposed for Johnson City

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