GUILFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a proposal by the APT Foundation to install a methadone clinic at a location on Boston Post Road at their meeting Wednesday night.
In August, the APT Foundation, a non-profit that offers medical care, counseling and treatment for people struggling with substance use, purchased three parcels of land on Boston Post Road for $1.9 million. The site is intended to be used for outpatient services, including primary care, counseling, vocational training, help accessing social services and the dispensing of methadone.
According to a site plan presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, the foundation plans to keep the building currently on the site, with some renovations and repairs to the building and parking area.
Under Guilford’s zoning code, a medical clinic is an approved use for those land parcels, meaning that the town does not need to hold a public hearing to discuss the proposal. First Selectman Matt Hoey told CT Examiner that only the Planning and Zoning Commission could call for a public hearing.
Hoey also told the Planning and Zoning Commission that he had rejected a request from a resident to call a special town meeting because the outcome would not impact the commission’s decision.
Lynn Madden, the foundation’s CEO, told members of the commission that nearly everyone who uses opioids in a way other than the way they are prescribed become addicted to the drugs, and that medication is the only evidence-based practice for treating addiction. Out of the people who are able to make it a year without relapsing, she said, 90 percent are using another medication. The federal government has so far approved three drugs for treating opioid addiction — methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
“Here in the state of Connecticut, one of the big public health problems we have is the rate of opioid use and subsequent dependence and addiction, as well as the attendant harms, such as death from overdose,” Madden said.
According to statistics from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, about 1,450 people died from a drug overdose in 2022 in Connecticut. Ninety-three percent of those deaths were from opioids. In 2021, Connecticut had the 13th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, according to the CDC.
But the shoreline, she said, remains one of the areas with the least resources. Madden said that about 400 people who live between Branford and New London currently have to drive to an APT site in New Haven to receive treatment.
The clinic hours will be from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m, Madden said, to make it possible for people who work or have other obligations to receive treatment at the clinic. She said people might spend different periods of time there, depending on their needs, but that the clinic would not allow people to loiter on the property. Madden said the location was ideal given nearby public transportation.
She estimated that the clinic would see between 65 and 80 people each day, and assured local officials that APT had never had a major incident at their clinics in West Haven and North Haven, which she said offer services most similar to the ones planned for Guilford.
Commissioner Sean Cosgrove expressed support for the facility, saying he felt it would help people to have an additional clinic in the area.
“I will admit that I know people who [have] problems with substance abuse, and I think a facility like this that will serve the shoreline or the area between New Haven and New London is … a great service to the community,” said Cosgrove. “And when you think about the extended families of the people who are being served by this — they’ll be served by this too.”
Hoey told CT Examiner that he also believed the facility would help people living nearby.
“The reality is, there are Guilford residents who are in the program who will benefit from the access to those services,” he said.
But Commissioner Kevin Clark, the lone vote against the clinic, expressed hesitation, asking why the commission was willing to push the methadone clinic forward without a public hearing — giving it what he referred to as a “red carpet fast-track” — but held public hearings and instituted a moratorium on a proposed marijuana facility.
Town planner Anne Hartjen pushed back, saying that the zoning code would apply the same to any business approved for a particular zone.
“This is not a red carpet treatment. Anybody who is an as-of-right use would get the same treatment on this application. And any other attribution of intent here is incorrect,” she said.
Madden said that neither the facility in West Haven nor in North Haven went to public hearing before opening, mainly because they were careful to choose properties that were already zoned for the use. She did say, however, that the foundation offered public information sessions in both towns, and that she had talked with Matt Hoey about planning a similar meeting in Guilford.