By Teri Carnicelli
The rumors were true—not only was Community Medical Services (CMS) looking for a location for another treatment center in the Sunnyslope area, but has, in fact, announced a new clinic will open by summertime at 1507 W. Hatcher Road.
The property includes a 3,710-square-foot restaurant space, built in 1971, and 822-square foot small home/office. The commercially zoned property was purchased in early November by Scottsdale-based Western American Investments LLC, which also acquired the vacant lot behind the two buildings (currently used for parking), and a lot further south on 15th Avenue. CMS will lease the buildings and the parking lot for its new clinic, which officials say should open in early summer.
CMS operates six substance use disorder treatment centers in the Valley—and a total of 11 in Arizona—serving primarily those with a heroin or opioid addiction. They are often referred to as “methadone” clinics, although methadone is one of three medications used to wean people off of heroin.
CMS came under fire in recent months because of its clinic at 23rd and Northern avenues, which when to a 24-7 operation last summer and caused a host of issues with nearby residents and businesses, as well as traffic congestion problems. CMS is still working to reduce its caseload at that location—with numbers still upwards of 750 clients—and has acquired the property to the south to work on the traffic and parking issues.
But business owners along Hatcher Road are more than just concerned those same issues will be coming to their area in less than six months—they are worried that their family-owned businesses may be irreparably damaged by the presence of the clinic.
Just over a year ago, a group of business owners along Hatcher Road formed the Hatcher Urban Businesses (HUB) alliance, and have been meeting monthly since February 2018. The group has grown to more than 200 members, including representatives of nearby schools, churches, and neighborhood associations—all on, or adjacent to Hatcher Road.
After discovering the property at 1507 W. Hatcher Road was sold and hearing that CMS would be opening a clinic there, the HUB held and impromptu meeting on Nov. 29, and invited representatives of CMS to attend.
Caroline Lobo, co-chair of the HUB and co-owner of Pawgo, a mobile pet grooming service, stated that, “Our goal is to attract more business owners like restaurants, small retail, and art studios. That is really our focus. A methadone clinic is completely at odds with what we are trying to do.”
Nadine Alauria, co-chair of the HUB and co-owner of 3A Automotive and Diesel, added that, “We’re very excited about what is happening on Hatcher. Businesses are really taking a role in this community. And we are the ones invested and vested in this community. We are the ones with hundreds of thousands of dollars sunk into our businesses for our future.”
The more than 20 HUB members present all expressed concern about the future of their businesses, as well as the safety of their customers and the children from the nearby Mountain View Elementary School, who walk in that area on a regular basis.
Tina Braham, Regional Operations director for CMS, attended the meeting. Her parents started CMS in the 1970s, and she told the group that she had a sister who died from a heroin overdose. In the last couple of years her parents sold their shares of the company to an investment firm to bring in additional capital in order to open more clinics to serve the growing number of people becoming addicted to heroin and opioids.
“The purpose is not to attract individuals with drug problems to come into this area, it’s to serve the people in need who are already here,” Braham stated.
Unlike the beleaguered Northern Avenue clinic, this new facility will be open from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily, and will not offer intake services, but rather will take clients who are already on CMS’s roster. She said the target capacity at the new clinic would be 450-500 clients, but what that translates to in terms of daily visits can very, since some come once a day, and some come once a week. Braham estimated an average of about 350 client visits a day.
In terms of traffic issues, Braham explained that contracted vehicles will drop off and be able to pick up someone else who is waiting, an option that wasn’t available before. Which would mean fewer people standing around waiting for their insurance-contracted ride.
“We want to bring services to people living in the community who are seeking help,” Braham said. “Our goal is to provide whatever services we can to help them reintegrate into society.”
HUB board members said they will continue to explore what options, if any, they have to mitigate the impact of the CMS clinic coming to their area. They will be contacting city and state officials expressing their concerns and looking for solutions down the road, which may not benefit them, but could help other businesses in the future who are faced with a similar dilemma.
“It looks like we have a long road ahead of us. And the truth is we don’t really know what the impact will be until they are open,” Alauria said.