The town of Monument, Colorado has reportedly reached a settlement of $350,000 in a case where a methadone provider sued officials for refusing to grant it a license to open a clinic.
Colonial Management Group, which operates methadone facilities nationwide, originally sued for $800,000—the $350,000 figure only represents the town’s share of the payment, according to town manager Chris Lowe. More money may be paid out by the town’s insurer. The town, which has reserves of around $300,000, will now have to cut its budget to make the payment, which will ultimately be shouldered by taxpayers.
It’s a needless waste of money. But stigma and prejudice have depressingly led to many NIMBY battles against methadone clinics opening across the nation.
Methadone cuts mortality for people who are addicted to opioids by at least 70 percent, as well as reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases. In a state where deaths related to heroin and other opioids have surged, you might think that would be seen as important information. And people on methadone work jobs and contribute to society in many ways.
Yet prejudice against methadone persists, partly because of general stigma against people who have used illegal drugs, partly because of a conception, in abstinence-fixated America, that Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) doesn’t “count” as being “clean.” Drug court judges, for example, despite having no medical training, often order people off methadone. This woman has to keep the fact that she receives MAT secret from her employer. And author Tony O’Neill memorably wrote for The Influence about his experiences of stigma:
Back in the bad old days of the late ‘90s on methadone, it was routine to have to show up at the pharmacy every morning to take your dose in front of the pharmacist. Supposedly intended to stop diversion, this rule seemed to be a thinly-veiled punishment, a way of ensuring that you began each and every day by being reminded of your lowly status on society’s ladder. It still gives me the shivers: first thing in the morning, dragging my aching bones to the local pharmacy, people gawking as I glugged my methadone with shaking hands, mothers pulling their children closer, as though my addict-genes might infect them. Hell, I’m surprised they didn’t make us all wear a linctus-green star and have done with it.
Monument, Colorado, with a population of around 6,000, is home to some people who use opioids. The town’s leaders have made it pay a heavy price for giving those people fewer options to stay safe.