Keeping up with the JonesingMay 11th, 2012 | By Mike Reddy
Susan J. Boyd, et al.
While methadone maintenance has increasingly been recognized as an effective option for mitigating opioid dependence, community groups across the country have mobilized to prevent methadone treatment centers (MTCs) from opening in their backyards.
Resident concerns about the adverse effects of MTCs on property values and public safety have led to a frenzy of community-wide protests and legislation limiting the geographic options available to MTCs, often creating minimum allowable distances between clinics and residential areas.
A new study by Dr. Susan Boyd and other researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine should assuage some of these fears.
Comparing Baltimore crime data between 1999 and 2001 for the areas surrounding 13 MTCs and for a control cohort of 13 convenience stores and 13 residential sites, Boyd found no relationship between MTC proximity and crime. Alternatively, Boyd found a significant decrease in criminality with increased distance from convenience stores and a positive correlation between criminality and distance from residential neighborhoods.
Boyd’s findings are good news for proponents of methadone maintenance who claim that those dependent on or abusing opioids are severely underserved. Roughly 13% of Americans who were dependent on or abusing heroin or prescription pain relievers in 2008 were receiving maintenance treatment.
With client accessibility one of the basic tenets of the rehabilitative model, Boyd hopes her research will remove the stigma surrounding drug abuse treatment and minimize the perceived risks of MTC placement within a community. She claims that her finding
addresses a major impediment to the establishment of new clinics, and should lead to greater availability of methadone maintenance treatment for the many people who need it.
While Boyd’s study may alleviate ecological and public safety concerns about MTC location, the repercussions on community attractiveness to potential homebuyers and business investors remain unclear. With property values and investor interest based as much on perception as reality, a willing community may not eventually be a prosperous one.