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Methadone Clinic in Chatham Wearing Out Its Welcome, Community Group Says

By Wendell Hutson | July 3, 2013 8:43am
 The Greater Chatham Alliance organization wants the Methadone Clinic to make changes to how it allows clients to come and go after their appointments. 
Drug Clinic
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CHATHAM — The Greater Chatham Alliance wants clients of a neighborhood methadone clinic to stop loitering after leaving the clinic and smoking in front of the building.

Roosevelt Vonil, president of the alliance, has been urging residents to call the clinic to voice their concerns.

The group "wants you to know that our community is demanding that your clinic provide outside security to keep your clients from loitering in our community during your business hours," Vonil said he told the clinic last week. "Your clients need to arrive at their designated appointment time, then take their medication and go home!"

Vonil said the clinic should hire a security guard to prevent loitering in front of the Chatham Avalon Medical Building, which houses the clinic, at 110 E. 79th St. If that doesn't happen, the clinic needs to move somewhere else, he said.

On Tuesday DNAinfo.com Chicago visited the clinic, managed by Nuway Community Services Inc., to speak to director Leobardo Frausto, but this reporter was asked to leave by an employee who declined to give her name.

"The owner is not available to talk to you, nor is anyone else," she said. "We have nothing further to say, and you are free to write whatever you want based on whatever you were told. I really don't care."

Frausto did not return repeated calls.

The clinic, which runs a medication-assisted treatment program, is open weekdays from 6-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., and Saturdays from 8-11 a.m.

Three blocks away from the clinic is Martha Ruggles Elementary School, 7831 S. Prairie Ave.

"Yes, school is out for the summer but what about when school starts back? Do we want kids walking past this place where 'crackheads' go to get treatment?" said Ryan White, 45. "To tell you the truth, I never really knew a [methadone] clinic was there. I would always see homeless-looking people hanging outside but I never gave it too much thought until now."

Gloria Green, 41, lives around the corner from the clinic and said she sees clients standing out front early in the morning.

"I work third shift and get off work at 5 o'clock [in the morning], and when I come home they are already lined up outside waiting for it to open up," said Green, a security guard. "I am all for people getting help for their addiction but clinics like these should be located in a more isolated place. This way it does not interfere with [neighbors'] way of life."

Vonil said he met with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) about the clinic last month and asked him to speak to the owner. Sawyer was unavailable for comment.

Val Marcelin, 65, is a former client of the clinic. He stopped going three months ago because he could no longer afford treatment.

"People need to know that all treatment centers are not free. This place here is all about making money. They don't give you no type of break," Marcelin said. "It costs $40 a week for treatment. The shot they give you lasts a good week. It does get the 'monkey' off your back but by day seven you start itching again."

Marcelin said while he abused drugs since age 40, he has been clean for 25 days.

"I'm not gonna lie to you. I used heroin for like 20 years. It started after my third divorce. That last divorce took me for a loop," said Marcelin, who is homeless but calls Chatham his home. "There's this building down the street where I stay. I sleep on top of the roof."

And Marcelin gets his medication in an unconventional way.

"That's why I am up here. You see I go to the Dumpster at the end of the day and get all the empty meth bottles the clinic throws away. I usually can get enough for one dose," Marcelin said.

"If I ever get myself together I am going back to New Orleans where I have family. You see, I originally came to Chicago as a result of Hurricane Katrina."