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Methadone clinic won't help revive Hagerstown

April 30, 2001

Methadone clinic won't help revive Hagerstown



More than 20 years ago, a developer proposed construction of a new department store in downtown Hagerstown. But because there wasn't much available space there, he proposed to build it on stilts, in the space above the city's Public Square. The proposal was seriously considered by local officials for about five minutes.

In November 1997, the Washington County Commissioners decided to sell six acres to a firm which proposed to accept and sterilize infectious medical wastes, including amputated limbs and used syringes. Local residents thought about it for about five minutes, began to envision overturned trucks spilling their grisly loads onto local roads, then raised such a ruckus the commissioners backed out of the deal.

Now comes a third candidate for the Bad Ideas Hall of Fame. We hope local officials and citizens knock this one out of the park like Sammy Sosa jumping on a high fastball.

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The proposal comes from a Florida company which wants to open a methadone maintenance clinic down the street from the Washington County Hospital at 217 E. Antietam St.

Now we might give our reluctant support to such a facility if top local officials said that is was needed, But William Christoffel, the county's health officer, said he'd rather not see it here, because such facilities "tend to act as a magnet for drug dealing and an increase in crime."

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith questioned why the firm wants to open such a clinic in a town that doesn't have a serious heroin problem.

We don't know, either, but one possible reason is that other areas don't want the facility. The aforementioned medical waste plant was rejected by Howard and Frederick counties before Washington County said "no."

For us, the bottom line is the Maryland Uniform Crime Report released this past March. For 1999, the latest year for which figures are available, the report showed a 1.3 drop in crime. That was accomplished with lots of difficult police work, paid for by taxpayers. Local police and health officials say it's a bad idea; who are we to argue?

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