The Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center is moving forward with its lawsuit against the city of Bangor after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that a city ordinance regulating methadone clinics is discriminatory.
The court did not grant the center’s request for injunctive relief, meaning, pending a favorable court ruling, the clinic’s client base will remain at no more than 300 patients.
In its 7-2 vote over the summer, the Bangor City Council denied the methadone clinic’s request to expand to 500 patients. Under the terms of a local ordinance, councilors demanded that the clinic respond to a series of questions. Among them: Is there a demonstrated need for those services and are the methadone treatment services provided where they’re needed?
During an interview in September, John Doyle, an attorney representing the clinic, said Bangor’s review process violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and that Penobscot Metro was in full compliance with all state criteria related to expansion.
“We pointed out in our original filings and in the hearings that we had met all the state requirements. The state allows us to go up to 500, the state allowed Discovery House to go up to 700, and the city’s purporting to hold us to 300 based on a review process that’s totally in conflict with the state’s process,” Doyle said. “So we think it’s discriminatory as it’s applied and we certainly think it’s discriminatory under the case law we cited under the Americans With Disabilities Act.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock agreed, saying, “the ordinance to single out methadone clinics and devise special rules to apply to them, as opposed to all other types of clinics, is facially discriminatory.”
Woodcock did not grant the clinic’s request for injunctive relief, which would have allowed the facility to proceed with expansion plans immediately. Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci says the city was pleased with that aspect of court’s ruling as well as with other conclusions, including one in which the judge stated that there are slots available at other clinics for as many as 60 other patients who Penobscot Metro contended were not being served.
“I think we showed that there were other treatment slots available at other facilities that hadn’t been fully explored by this facility, and as the court found, they had not fully documented the immediate need for the services,” Baldacci says.
Representing the clinic, John Doyle declined to go on tape for this story and instead offered a written statement, saying that in the absence of receiving injunctive relief, the clinic will be forced to continue to turn away people in urgent need of critical care and ready to enter treatment.
The case is expected to go to trial early next year.