Last night the Laurel Elementary School's PTA meeting did not concern itself with curriculum, phonics, staffing, after school programs or any of the other traditional agenda items. At last night's meeting, members of the community met with the director of a Methadone clinic, members of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Captain Mike Callagy of the San Mateo Police Department and San Mateo County Hospital officials to discuss the November slated opening of a Methadone clinic in close proximity to the school.
The very mention of a Methadone clinic - the popular treatment method of heroin addicts - in a residential neighborhood, rock-throwing distance to a elementary school and church has evoked a serious amount of alarm from neighboring residents and parents.
The gymnasium that housed the event was packed with concern - people were taking notes and asking direct poignant questions about drug abuse, residitive rates, treatment plans and zoning issues.
San Mateo County Board of Supervisor member Jerry Hill, in fact, evoked the memory of Richard Allen Davis - a transient and murderer who was tied back to a local social service agency - as he addressed the room. He, however, then made reassurances that the clients of the Methadone Clinic would largely be there because they wanted to receive help, and that Methadone is only a means to achieving stability for recovering addicts.
The purpose of the meeting, however, was to inform the community and to educate them about the clients of the Methadone clinic as well as answer questions. Whether members of the community thought their questions would lead the Board of Supervisors to choose another location for the clinic is not apparent.
In answer to this, however, a member of the panel said, "The city has no jurisdiction over the factuality. No approval is necessary from the city."
They were, indeed, not there to stand down - and it was obvious that no matter what the community concerns were - the plans would go forward to build, man and serve recovering addicts at San Mateo County Hospital on 39th Ave.
One community member outside of the Laurel Elementary School gymnasium had mixed feelings about the proposed methadone clinic. "They have to go somewhere, but then again I don't live that close by. What if it was in my backyard, I don't know what I would think," she said.
The issue of serving recovering heroin addicts was well covered. Hill and a panel of experts on the subject provided the community with well documented information about the effectiveness of the treatment plan, where and how the clients would come into and leave out of the neighborhood, the qualifications of the staff that would be serving and monitoring this population, how many clients the clinic would have and what could be done if there were problems. The issue that remained unaddressed - as the chief concern was not the need to provide a service for heroin users - was the close proximity to the school. And it appeared difficult for the parents of school-aged children to get passed the idea that heroin addicts would be walking up and down the same street, during early morning hours, as they were, perhaps while walking their children to school.
The San Mateo County General Hospital plans to serve approximately 200 methadone clients per day. The clinic will operate between 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the peak service hours ( approximately 50 percent) will be between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m.