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Neighbors continue to fight for a methadone clinic to enforce a new plan

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jan 31, 2023

After a move in 2021, neighbors who lived near a methadone clinic tell ABC15 things have gone from 'not so bad' to horrible.

From an influx of drug users to people experiencing homelessness, neighbors fear history may be repeating itself at a new location.
The clinic says it acknowledges the problem but insists the finger should not be pointed at them alone.

"Very exciting at times. It can be very entertaining. But, other times it is scary and it is sad,” said Jayme Mason.

The fear Mason and others have is a 24-hour methadone clinic and what she sees around it near Interstate 17 and Cactus Road.

Not a day goes by when she doesn't see a person who's experiencing homelessness, someone appearing to be dealing with a mental illness, or appears to be struggling with drug addiction.

"I started noticing it about two and a half to three years ago, I would say,” added Mason.

All, Mason believes, comes from what the Community Medical Services Clinic brings to the community she's called home for 20 years.

She lives about a half-mile away and says she didn't learn of the clinic until after it was there.

"I could not figure out why there were so many, suddenly, of these people living, walking, hanging around, or whatever on my street. But, it certainly explained a lot,” added Mason.

The clinic relocated from Northern Avenue, in 2021, after a group of neighbors lobbied to have it moved.

Mike Austin owns Batter's Box Cards and Stuff in the strip mall next to Metro Square.

"We've cut trees. We put in lights. Still, there are people sleeping in there, trash and stuff going on,” said Austin.

He remembers when the people and area businesses were created it was a utopia, as he called it. But, now, it's just that memory.

"The only problem we had was the occasional guy living under the freeway or overpass that would come over for a decade or more,” added Austin.

He, too, puts the blame on the clinic. But, as he calculates it, only 80% to 90%.

"It's a problem. Someone has to deal with it. Unfortunately, we are bearing the brunt,” added Austin.

The headache was brought on, some say, by the extra foot traffic extending a few doors over to Lou Sterling at Stackers Restaurant.

"The police are helping us the best they can. Now? It is up to the merchants, the residents, or whatever security we have, like I said, to keep them moving,” added Sterling.

As for Mason, she wants CMS clinic staff to step up and do more.

"It is a hazmat issue. Something needs to be done. There's got to be an answer,” added Mason.

She and ABC15 investigator Courtney Holmes poured complaints from nearby HOAs, reviewing Mason’s conversations with city leaders and police.

Mason says there were more than 700 police calls for service to the methadone clinic and a nearby gas station in all of 2021.

Last year, through October, Mason says there was a similar call volume with police responding to 680 calls.

"Don't tell me that is not a problem in my neighborhood. That is a lot of calls. I don't even call the police once a year,” added Mason.

ABC15 took the concerns of Mason, Sterling, and Austin to the staff at the clinic. While there, Community Medical Services gave ABC15 a tour.

"We provide treatment for anyone with opioid addiction and different medications,” said Kerrie Sanders.

Sanders says she hears the complaints and understands but wants the public to know they're not to blame for all of the problems.

"We have a fentanyl epidemic. We have an opioid epidemic. We have a homeless epidemic. I mean we have so many that are almost a trifecta of what the issues are that are adding to problems we are trying to be a good social service ( and support for),” said Sanders.

ABC15 pressed Sanders on the neighbor's claims that clinic staff is not living up to its promises.

Sanders responded by saying the clinic does outreach but insists many of the problems could go away if there was sufficient housing to help fight homelessness.

"We actually sat in with a couple of different ones, at city hall, and those folks to talk about what opportunities (there are.) But, there is no quick solution for the housing problem we have in Phoenix,” added Sanders.

Neighbors tell ABC15 they tried talking to CMS and get no real solutions.

"What I absolutely dislike about some of these conversations we constantly have is it's an us versus them mentality and it is not. We are members of this community. We are seeing the same problems you are,” added Sanders.

Sterling wants the clinic closed for good but he's not holding his breath.

"They are not going to shut it down. I think we already know that. It is not going to happen,” added Sterling.

"We came here because there was such a desperate need for these types of services, and the reason it is 24/7 is because treatment needs to be available when people are ready for treatment,” added Sanders.

The residents are raising complaints against CMS, and want the clinic to improve its outreach by talking directly with HOAs and doing more community clean-ups.