Guilford Selectmen Reject Petition for Public Hearing on Methadone Clinic

A rendering of the planned Methadone treatment facility on the Post Road in Guilford (Credit: Pustola Associates)


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GUILFORD — The Board of Selectmen has rejected a petition from more than 60 town residents requesting a public hearing on a proposed methadone clinic, citing legal concerns.

The APT Foundation, a nonprofit that offers medical care, counseling and treatment for people struggling with substance use, purchased three properties on Boston Post Road for $1.9 million last summer. In January, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved its plan for a methadone clinic, which has since stirred up discontent among neighbors.

During a Tuesday meeting, First Selectman Matt Hoey said he had asked town attorney Peter Barrett to examine the petition, which called for a pause to all renovations at the clinic site until public hearings are held, and impact studies on traffic, crime, property values and other relevant issues are completed. Additionally, the petition requests background checks on the APT Foundation.  

According to Barrett, the town is not obligated to hold a public hearing on the proposal, and even if they did, there would be no action the town could take to prevent the clinic from opening. Under the town’s zoning code, medical facilities in the Boston Post Road area where the properties are located are approved “as-of-right,” meaning they do not require public approval. 

Hoey said the decision to approve the clinic was made by staff in the town planning office based on the zoning code. Had Guilford opposed the facility, he said, they would have exposed themselves to the risk of a lawsuit, especially if the foundation had already purchased the property with the knowledge that a clinic was an approved use under the zoning code. 

“We would have been in court within a week,” he said. 

Hoey said the APT Foundation plans to offer an informational session to Guilford residents on Feb. 27 to discuss their clients and traffic or security concerns. 

During the Tuesday board meeting, members of the public expressed their dissatisfaction, stating they were upset with the town officials for not making a greater effort to inform the community about the methadone clinic earlier in the process.

“[The APT Foundation] would have never paid $1.9 million if they didn’t think that they had a good chance of a welcoming community. I think that when you or whoever was approached — that’s when the community should have been addressed,” resident Debbie Demusis said. 

According to emails obtained by CT Examiner, Hoey first met with APT Foundation CEO Lynn Madden in March about the potential clinic. Hoey has expressed support for the facility as well, saying it could be helpful for people living on the shoreline who needed the services provided by the foundation. 

Demusis said the clinic doesn’t belong in Guilford and that she wished she had the opportunity to share her opinion before the APT foundation purchased the property.

“Of course they’re going to have answers. They’re going to sell it. That’s what they do,” Demusis said. “They’re not going to tell us their issues. They’re not going to tell us their problems.” 

Resident Kimberly Handelman said she also wished someone could bring “nonpartisan” data to the meeting.

“What I’m worried about is that we’re going to show up at this meeting and the only people that are going to have data are the people that want it there and are going to manipulate the data,” she said. “And I don’t care how much data you have, you can always sway it your way.”

Selectman Louis Federici said the majority of emails the board received about the methadone clinic were negative. He emphasized the necessity for a shift in the town’s perspective about the clinic — as a good proposal that posed some problems, rather than as a bad thing “that needs to be justified in the eyes of the community.” 

“I happen to think it’s a public health catastrophe that we’re dealing with — with opioid addiction and methadone,” Federici said. “If and to the extent that there are legitimate concerns, those should be addressed. But the assumption that it’s bad, and the community needs to prove it’s not bad, I think is the perverse way of looking at this problem. I think this is a good, necessary use of a clinic.” 

Though it’s possible that people from New Haven and New London could visit the clinic, Selectman Sandra Ruoff noted that there were 200 Branford residents and 55 Guilford residents currently receiving treatment. 

“One of the reasons they wanted to open this along the shoreline was [that] there are people in need of this kind of treatment in our communities,” she said. 

Residents also expressed concerns about security and the potential for increased crime in the area. Allison Adekanye, who has two children attending the neighboring Bright and Early Children’s Learning Center, said she wanted to know what the town would do to ensure the area was safe. 

“I think there’s no way that you can say for certain that this is not going to bring some element of criminal behavior,” Adekanye said.

Hoey said the police chief did not anticipate any significant impact from the clinic based on the department’s conversations with officials in North Haven. Hoey said he was more concerned about Target’s impact on Guilford’s crime rate than that of the methadone clinic. 

Hoey also noted that the agency estimated serving about 80 people per day, and that their hours for dispensing methadone would be from 5:30 a.m. until 1:30 or 2 p.m. 

“I daresay that between the hours of 6 and 9 o’clock, there are more than 80 cars going to Dunkin Donuts on the other side of that intersection,” he said.  

Additionally, Hoey said he doesn’t see a need for background checks on the APT Foundation, as it’s not required for any other employers in town. 

During a meeting of residents at the Community Center last week, presenters mentioned an $800,000 settlement that the APT Foundation paid the state and federal government in 2017 in response to allegations of improper Medicaid billing. 

But Hoey, who has previously worked with the Connecticut Hospital Association in health care technology, told CT Examiner earlier this month that it was not uncommon for there to be discrepancies in billing when large institutions are audited by the federal government. 

Resident Kristie Rubendunst said she has two nephews struggling with heroin addiction, and that she’s had to take them to a New Haven clinic for methadone treatment. She said having a clinic in Guilford could help families of those dealing with addiction, especially since people taking methadone must visit a clinic daily. 

“I know it’s a hot topic and I know there are lots of things to consider, but it’s a real heartache when you have someone in your family or your loved ones who are addicted and you have to do the best you can to take care of them. It would be a great help,” she said. 

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.