Northeast Philly Residents Face Off Over Yet Another Methadone Clinic

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 50 | Posted Aug. 10, 2011

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Under the influence: Many angry Northeast Philly residents believe a methodone clinic will blight the neighborhood.

Photo by Ryan Strand

A small poster that’s been circulating through Northeast Philadelphia since early July portrays hands preparing heroin with a spoon and flame, and reads, “Stop the methadone clinic.” It’s plastered to doors and windows of several businesses along Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg. It, and others like it—like the one showing a woman and her daughter entering a drug treatment clinic—are in response to a methadone treatment facility that’s planned to open on Frankford’s 7900 block.

Such posters are just a small part of the mounting opposition to the clinic, which would be Northeast Philly’s third and one of 15 citywide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. A potential fourth has been planned for the area, as well. The number of patients seeking methadone treatment in Philadelphia is undisclosed, though the office of state Rep. Kevin Boyle, whose district covers part of Philly, puts estimates at 500 to 750 patients per day—many of whom, at the beginning of treatment, can show up daily or twice a day.

Critics of the treatment facilities say that methadone—a narcotic treatment used for coming off an opiate addiction—is “just another high” for heroin addicts.

“I’m not sure where I think is the right place to use methadone,” says state Sen. Mike Stack—whose 5th District includes the SOAR methadone treatment and rehabilitation center—at a public meeting held at Lincoln High School last month. “I know one thing, it’s not here. It’s not anywhere around here … I want people who have drug issues to be able to recover, but waiting in lines in nice neighborhoods like this, that’s not the right use of methadone.”

According to a 2004 Government Accountability Office report, some clinics have been linked to problem drug areas across the country, though many treatment facilities are often placed in problem drug areas because that’s where the problem is. Many who are strongly opposed to the clinics use this line of thinking to fuel their argument. When asked by an anonymous audience member at the Lincoln High meeting if Healing Way, the proposed medical facility on Frankford Avenue, would still be opposed by the community and politicians even if it were run correctly, Boyle responded, “100 percent.”

The audience, already angry about the rhetoric being thrown their way, ate that up. A young woman in the audience told her friend she intended to pelt methadone patients with eggs if and when they arrived for treatment. A middle-aged father repeatedly screamed during lulls that “Section Eight housing” was to blame for the potential of a methadone clinic in his neighborhood. Another man threatened violence against Healing Way’s owners. A young girl in the back of the auditorium began crying soon after hearing “drug addicts” would be “riding the bus with our children.”

The reality is most people don’t want a methadone clinic in their backyard. But despite residents’ cries, methadone patients, obviously, have differing views.

Colette Kolbmann, for example, was shocked to see her photograph, and that of her daughter, being used on one of the posters to incense locals for the Lincoln High School rally. The 26-year-old lifelong Northeast Philly resident is probably the last person you’d want to use as an example of methadone’s faults, since she credits the narcotic with saving her life.

“There’s this stigma with methadone that people don’t understand,” she says. “If you’re a diabetic and you need your medication every day, you’re going to take it every day … an addiction is a disease and methadone is a treatment for that disease. If you don’t get high and you stay on methadone you can eventually get off and live a healthy life.”

A Morrell Park native, Kolbmann says she started drinking at 11, smoking pot at 12 and doing heroin at 15. “Not because I wanted to be a junkie. I just knew I was doing what everybody else was doing,” she says.

She eventually gave up her daughter to her parents and lived on the streets. She says the drug took the lives of more than a dozen of her friends, many of whom were too embarrassed to go to a clinic. “They didn’t want to ask for help,” she says, “and they knew how people look down on those who use methadone, so instead they shot heroin and took [Oxycontin] in secret.”

Since 2006, Kolbmann has attended several methadone clinics in the city, and understands why the local reaction is what it is. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says, “the clinic down at Eighth and Girard, the one at Parkside, the Kensington clinic—if you go down there, it’s a zoo because it’s not run right.”

“There are an embarrassing number of people who abuse methadone,” says Aaron Torres, Kolbmann’s husband, who’s still receiving treatment for heroin addiction. “But that’s because they’re getting it at the clinics in Kensington, South Philly, at Ninth and Market … If you walk out of that place you’re going to have 10 people walk up to you and try to sell you drugs.”

As is, many of the city’s successful clinics, like Northeast Treatment and SOAR, are in Northeast Philly. But unlike the proposed clinic on Frankford Avenue, they’re mostly removed from commercial and residential districts. These clinics often have long waiting lists because of their success rates and many who need treatment are forced to head into areas where abuse of clinics is easier and more rampant.

“The location Healing Way is looking to move into, it’s just an awful location,” says Boyle. “It’s not a responsible place to put it. There’s a day care center, a dance studio, a church, and I just completely reject the insinuation that all of the Delaware Valley’s heroin addicts are in Northeast Philadelphia … It just seems as though there was a decision to put methadone treatment facilities in Northeast Philadelphia.”

The owners of Healing Way, Alan Yanovsky and Eric Janovsky, did not respond for comment. No one has been able to talk to the pair—who also own a cash-for-gold venture on Sansom Street—about Healing Way yet, though a zoning hearing is taking place on Aug. 31, which they will be required to attend.

Boyle says they “refuse to work with the local community or elected officials. So how are they going to be responsible to the neighborhood if they don’t want to work with the neighborhood?”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 50 of 50
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1. Anonymous said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 09:35AM

“majority of drug addicts cant be fixed. Methadone is for opioid addicted people who become physically dependent. taking away the opioid puts them into withdraw, a sickly and temporary but not deadly state. Give these people a week of anti-emetics and haldol and problem solved. Methadone is a nice way to prolong their situation and annoy good people.”

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2. Dude said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 09:44AM

“congressmen and women make and cost the government a lot of money. before we start digging into each other, why dont we ask them to stop or cut back the salaries they generate. They are elected!!! opinion of people nothing concrete!!! they dont make revenue, taxes arent really revenue. Ask bob and a couple other guys to pay their share, dont cut that soldiers salaries or benefits. start with the law makers.”

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3. Steve said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:38AM

“I live near a methadone clinic and worked in a building in center city that housed a methadone clinic and I understand what this community is afraid of. I went up to the Mann Music Center to pay tickets for a concert and people from parkside methadone clinic got on the 40 Bus they were loud and foul mouthed. They need to pick a location that is accessible to public transportation and the individuals recieving treatment most be respectful.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 01:38PM

“Just curious? why can't a hospital take care of this issue? After all when I or others are sick or in pain that's what most of us do. They do have separate areas within the facility so that it will not interfer with emergencys or critical care. In addition, where are the doctors..MD's not do's, that is why they go to medical school, is'nt it? Why are business venture indivuals involved with medical treatment? Besides,...is this issue illegal in nature or is this a public health problem??”

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5. Judge said... on Aug 10, 2011 at 03:00PM

“its an out patient problem. not an emergency. Its a daily medication that is substituted for heroin, vicodin or percocet...etc. doctors must be involved in order to prescribe the medication. MD or DO?????”

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6. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2011 at 01:18PM

“there is already enough trash creeping into NE philly. We really need to try our hardest to keep more from coming in. It really was once 'a great place to live'......”

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7. Anonymous said... on Aug 13, 2011 at 10:15AM

“I had 2 methadone pt sin the hospital yesterday< i must say they were very nice and respectful. never saw that before. I think their dose was increased.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 13, 2011 at 09:01PM

“i been on methadone for a few years now and i must say it saved my life.i know quite a few people that are on methadone and live a healthy productive life.its a shame that all people on methadone are bunched together as these bad-or less than people.i live in the n.e and travel everyday to west philly where i get treated for my addiction.there is a daycare and a school within a block of the program.why is it ok that people from n.e can travel to other neighborhoods to get drugs but how dare we try and get help in our own community.where i live in the ne i see hookers and needles on the ground, not to mention u can get any drug u want up here.i do understand the communitys concern but c'mon people the ne is'nt this community that most people think.i would love to take a poll on ne people and see just how many are on drugs such as heroin,oxy's,perc's and vicodan.i can guarantee you it would be a very high number that are on some form of drug.give people a chance.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Aug 16, 2011 at 08:48AM

“so where do you travel for your job??”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 17, 2011 at 02:47PM

“@ #8 - If getting clean is SO important to you why dose it matter where you have to travel? I have lived in Holmesburg for 38 of my 43 years, I live in the house I was raised in, why should the neighbors risk the value of their homes when there is just an equal probability that this clinic will be run as poorly as Parkside et al as it would be run well. If you don't like the travel to west philly to get you "cure" then move there and make that neighborhood yours and leave our relatively stable (note, I didn't say nice I said stable) neighborhood alone.”

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11. ken said... on Aug 31, 2011 at 05:33PM

“ok JUST TO LET ALL THE PARENTS KNOW THERE IS SO MANY KIDS ON DRUGS TODAY . YES YOUR KIDS WETHER YOU WANT TO BELIEVE IT OR NOT . . THERE IS A MAJOR PROBLEM IN THE NORTHEAST HERION AND OPIETS .. THIS CLINIC WILL HELP . I KNOW BECAUSE IT HELPED ME . I WENT TO SORE CLINIC FOR METHADONE TREATMENT AND GOT MY LIFE BACK ... TO THE PARENTS IF YOU DONT BELIEVE ME THAT THERE IS A MAJOR PROBLEM JUST ASK ANY COP IN THE 7TH 8TH 15TH 2ND DISTRIC THEY WILL TELL YOU THE TRUTH . THEY SEE IT FIRST HAND EVERY DAY . MY VOTE IS LET THEM BUILD THE CLINIC . THESE ARE YOUR KIDS AND THEY NEED HELP”

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12. Anonymous said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:24AM

“# 11 - To hell with the junkies and addicts they brought it on themselves, I'll not have my property value tank just to save a couple of scumbags who decided it would be fun to inject themselves with shit or not follow the doctors instructions on their prescription bottle. I live TWO blocks from where they want to place this "clinic" (and I use the term clinic loosely) I've lived there for 38 of my 43 years, my home is the only thing of true value I own and I'll not see it's value destroyed for anyone or anything. Oh and BTW turn off the Cap lock!”

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13. Jaworski said... on Oct 7, 2011 at 09:56PM

“Twice you said, "I've lived here 38..." I've met your type. I see you running out the back door with a tire iron threatening someone who takes a shortcut across your lawn. Most of the ppl at clinics are there because they had cancer or other illness and got addicted to painkillers, or just other normal people who a doctor scribed something super addictive out to as person who would be in pain for 3 days for a minor surgery. Some move on to harder shit, but many do not jam a needle in their ass.”

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14. The Killer said... on Oct 9, 2011 at 05:33AM

“Addiction is a medical illness - That's a straight FACT which is NOT up for debate, no matter how much you self-righteous judgmental pricks think you know better than the medical/scientific community.

I'm a recovering heroin/opioid addict and have been clean for several years now - an accomplishment which would have been impossible had I not had access to a decent methadone maintenance program. Without it, I'd still be using, despite the fact my drug habit cost me decent jobs, all the money I had to my name, a nice apartment, my car, relationships with friends/family/other loved ones who couldn't bear to keep watching me slowly destroy myself, my ambitions to pursue my own interests, and the peace of mind I once had as a functional human being who didn't need to constantly worry each day about servicing an unpredictabe habit in order to make sure I don't get deathly sick and slip into a state of pain so severe & terrifying I'd never wish it on ANYONE.

Methadone saves lives”

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15. The Killer said... on Oct 9, 2011 at 05:57AM

“BTW - The glaring flaw in people's arguments against methadone clinics is that they ignore the fact that these clinics exist because there are people in your community right now in need of treatment. The existence of a clinic doesn't create that reality - it is there AS A DIRECT RESULT!

So there are two options - leave the clinic and medical staff to do their jobs, thereby helping local addicts in your community receive treatment and hopefully become productive members of that community.
Or I suppose instead you could chase the treatment centers away, thereby letting those near you rot in the cycle of active addiction, yet subjecting yourselves to the nasty side-effects: property crime, broken homes, kids taken to foster homes, law-enforcement focusing rescources on users instead of actual criminals, jail overcrowding, increasing infection rates of other diseases (eg, Hepatitus, HIV/AIDS, MRSA, etc).
Clinics curb social ills which already exist, they don't cause them.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Oct 10, 2011 at 02:17PM

“@ 13 - and so what if I said it two times or two hundred times, my home is the ONLY thing of value that matters to me and I'll not see it's value drop when all the other BS happens that follows these places and the slugs that use them, and yes if I find someone on my property, I will conclude they're up to no good and swing for the cheap seats with whatever is in my hand.

Also, if most of these people were on prescribed medications, all they had to do was follow the directions on the bottle, but I'm assuming that these folk know how to read and follow directions in the first place.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Oct 10, 2011 at 02:35PM

“@ 14-15, and I suppose someone forced you to do whatever it was that made you a junkie? A disability is something your born with, not bring on yourself, and these clinics only bring vermin into the neighborhood that spread out into the area and prey on the weak attending these "clinics" and thereby destroying the quality of life, property values of the neighborhood. There was a report done for congress on the S*** that goes on around clinics in the DC area (gao.gov/new.items/d04946t.pdf), and this is only one city, and granted it is many years old but it illustrates what can happen around these "clinics". You probably don't even live in the area so save your indignation for someone who cares.”

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18. Anonymous said... on Jun 13, 2013 at 10:00PM

“I'm a recovering heroin addict from Philly who went to rehab in South Florida. I had been addicted to opiates for a year before switching to heroin in 2009. I got sober in 2010. In detox, I had an 8 day suboxone taper. Life in sobriety was definately amazing. After 2.5 years sober, I relapsed on heroin. I have had an underlying medical condition from when I was diagnosed at age 20 (I'm 25 now) and the physical pain has been the worst it's been in a long time and I just said F**k it really. I knew what I was doing. I've been on methadone for almost a month at a pretty low dose. Best decision for me. Helped stop the cycle before I fell totally back. I can say methadone saved my life. Yes, some people that go to the clinics are who you're describing but the average person I've seen at my clinic here in FL are just normal people trying to get their life back on track and be productive, contibuting members of society. And as far as monitoring dosing, they have strict dosing procedures.”

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19. Anonymous said... on Jul 2, 2014 at 06:15PM

“Stop the methadone clinics. Nobody forced these junkies to do drugs, they did it to be cool. Stop putting our hard earned tax dollars towards that crap and put it back in the schools”

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20. Anonymous said... on Aug 22, 2014 at 04:21PM


Ever since this place opened a week ago I have saw I big increase in drug baggies on this block I also noticed the security guard is very shady he walks around the corner all day long on his phone and I have been seeing making a lot of hand to hand transactions with shady people in shady places so in my eyes this neighborhood has already gone down and it's only been a week”

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21. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2014 at 04:09PM

“And let's not forget the increase in garfetti and that's property vandalism the block looks hoorible garfetti is everywhere this place has to go”

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22. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2014 at 04:13PM

“I agree we want our neighborhood back”

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23. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2014 at 04:33PM

“I really wish that the Philadelphia weekly paper would do an article on how something like a methadone clinic can destroy a community, property value they draw a big increase in drug paraphernalia and petty crimes like garfetti and robbery and how it makes neighborhood that much more unsafe for children to play people these peoe chose to do drugs we as a community should not have to suffer for their actions they chose to who drugs they should have to travel to the appropriate location for there actions. Nobody cares about the little guys who it affected and hurt financially

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24. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2014 at 04:36PM

“Woulnt it make more sense to open in a more disert location or on state road near the prisons somewhere where it woulnt hurt property value and local business and residents and where it won't destroy a community”

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25. Anonymous said... on Aug 25, 2014 at 05:51PM

“We have to stay strong stand our ground as a community and keep fighting to get this place out of our neighborhood the second we give up is when this place wins I will destroy there online reputation I will keep posting bad reviews untill they realize that what is best for business is to relocate to the Kensington area we don't want them here and there not welcome here go back from where they came from or they should go open up In there suburb neighborhood and sees how they like it”

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26. Anonymous said... on Aug 25, 2014 at 05:51PM

“We have to stay strong stand our ground as a community and keep fighting to get this place out of our neighborhood the second we give up is when this place wins I will destroy there online reputation I will keep posting bad reviews untill they realize that what is best for business is to relocate to the Kensington area we don't want them here and there not welcome here go back from where they came from or they should go open up In there suburb neighborhood and sees how they like it”

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27. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 07:45PM

“It's only been open for a few weeks now and every morning all I see is Dope feens waiting for the bus that they are so high they are falling asleep white standing all dipped out it's horrible I can't believe what I'm seeing”

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28. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 07:56PM

“I am in suck disbelief that this is happening I am so over philadelphia that we are now in the process of selling out home and moving out of philadelphia period no discussion needed. The city will start allowing them to open up anywhere they want and very soon the City of Philadelphia will be a walking zombie graveyard with methadone clinics everywhere and there will be no decent neighborhoods left in philadelphia anymore this is the start”

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29. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 08:02PM

“This city is pathetic they now cater to junkies needs and are ruining decent neighborhoods and communities”

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30. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 08:12PM

“There should be one designated area in the city away from the good community's not in the not in the heart of a great business disctrict Frankford ave and also a really great residential community. The methadon users should have to travel everyday to Kensington or on state road near the prisons, because we all know they don't have a job or work all they do is look any kind of quick come and commit petty crimes like stealing garfetti robbery etc. why destroy property value when you could made them open somewhere on State
Road or in the Kensington section.”

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31. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2014 at 03:47PM

“I agree 100% this place has to go, I already am seeing a lot of things I'm not liking”

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32. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2014 at 03:50PM

“calling a methadone clinic a medical office is like calling a drug deal a pharmacist”

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33. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2014 at 03:53PM

“Calling a methadone clinic a medical office is the same as calling a drug dealer a pharmacists”

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34. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 01:22PM

“I can't raise my kids in this neighborhood. New people just moved next door to me so they can live closer to the clinic and they have junkies coming in and out of there house everyday and night they blast there music everyday and they don't work. This is an embarrassment to me and my family and everything we stand for. They definitely took over the neighborhood it's ashame”

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35. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 03:58PM

“I am also looking to sell my home and relocate my business I can already see the negative affect this place is having in out community”

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36. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 04:44PM

“It's suck ashame that everyone I'm talking to is trying to sell there property and mive out of philadelphi. That's what this methadone clinic is doing to our neighborhood”

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37. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 05:01PM

“It's true all the good people and local businesses of this area are moving away and relocating and it's all because of The Healing Way mathadone clinic now located In the center of what was once a great place to live and raise a family Mayfair / Holmesburg. I would like to thank the judge who granted them the permits to open in the middle of a great neighborhood. Why woulnt you at lease make them open near the prisons out of the neighborhood, I'll tell you why because that judge don't live hear and he don't care he didn't care that we came together as a community to take a stand. Philadelphia is becoming a horrible place to live and raise a family”

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38. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 05:13PM

“That's correct the problem is the city for allowing this.That's why a lot of
People are moving from philadelphia and there not looking back”

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39. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 05:27PM

“This is very scary for my family's future I think I need to start considering other living options. These peoe carry diseases like hepatitis HIV aids etc, and what I'm seeing on the streets and In the stores in the morning when I'm bringing my kids to school is making me sick that I can't sleep rite anymore”

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40. Anonymous said... on Sep 3, 2014 at 09:09AM

“.”

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41. Anonymous said... on Sep 3, 2014 at 09:15AM

“What happened to philadelphia this city was once a great place to live and raise a family”

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42. Anonymous said... on Sep 3, 2014 at 06:50PM

“I heard they are selling methadone to tgere clients too. I heard if you want a stronger dose or more all you have to do is Pay cash for more”

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43. Anonymous said... on Sep 3, 2014 at 06:54PM

“HaHa the judge is a perk head”

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44. Anonymous said... on Sep 8, 2014 at 05:01PM

“They also own a dentist office it was on 18th and Chestnut now they just relocated somewhere in Rittenhouse area witch is not far from where they were previously located at 18th chestnut st”

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45. Vincent said... on Nov 16, 2014 at 12:18PM

“There was also a robbery shooting that took place out side there last week”

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46. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2014 at 12:30PM

“I wish I would have taped this kid standing in front of the bus stop after he came out of the healing way to get his drugs. It was a disgrace and embarrassment to his self and also the neighborhood and the children we have is living in this area they should not have to see this”

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47. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2014 at 12:34PM

“We should try to use the shooting as a way to protest them out of the neighborhood because there was previously a bar located there before the healing way and there was a shooting at the bar and we protested the bar and tney closed the bar down and then the healing they opened up and now there was a shooting in front of the healing way we need to protest this. The healing ways no better than the bar that was there it's bringing the same amount of negative impact to the area”

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48. Vincent said... on Nov 16, 2014 at 12:38PM

“I'm so glad people are still willing to fight this and feel the same way as I do we need to make her voices heard”

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49. Anonymous said... on Nov 16, 2014 at 12:45PM

“i'm still puzzled on how the judge could rule against the neighborhood and community and allow this place up. We own property and pay taxes and raise children here, it blows my mind this place is open I don't understand”

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50. Anonymous said... on Dec 15, 2014 at 08:06PM

“Those of you that have nothing but bad things to say and bad comments to make about opiate addicts and methadone maintenance treatment and suboxone maintenance after that I'm sorry but you people have no idea what your saying or what your passing judgment unless you have suffered the disease addiction you can't say anything about it or about us. Well I will educate you being addicted to heroin and opiates is a hell I wouldn't wish on anyway what we need is people with compassion and understanding we don't need people passing judgment people like that think there better then us. Its a shame you people out there who just talk bad about drug addicts need to get a clue because no matter what we tell you everyday we feel horrible and want to die every addict knows we can't do it alone but at the same time if were being judged and bad mouthed by almost everyone out there you'll never help us get better because we need your help we need your love and support we need our hell we deal with too”

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