Multiple business owners in the shopping center were convinced if this clinic opened, their businesses would suffer. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 5, 2011)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
EVANS, Ga. -- Starting Monday, a new drug rehab clinic will be opening its doors in Columbia County.
Treatment Centers of America's newest location, the Treatment Center of Augusta, will be treating patients with opiate and narcotic addictions.
The methadone clinic is opening up in the Park Place shopping center on Washington Road months after neighboring business owners voiced their concerns -- and some are still not happy.
The Treatment Center says the patients are normal, working people, but back in October, multiple business owners in the shopping center were convinced if this clinic opened, their businesses would suffer.
We first met Jason Herrera, the owner of Superior Self Defense and Salsa-Dance Academy, last October.
"It's a danger to our businesses to have such a facility be placed right next to all of ours," said Herrera in October.
He and other business owners that cater to families were fighting back against a drug rehab clinic moving in next door.
Flash forward to Friday, and he still feels the same.
"Why would you put something that's private in a public place? Why would you put something that has a negative connotation into a family-oriented shopping center?" he said. "That doesn't make any sense."
The clinic says they treat middle-class patients suffering opiate addictions with counseling, intervention and medication like methadone.
Despite this, Herrera still doesn't agree with the center's location.
"No, I don't agree with what's going on still at all, my views of it haven't changed in that sense at all," he said.
But Herrera has changed his tune on how the clinic will affect his business. He says since the clinic started building, his numbers haven't been affected.
The clinic says they liked the location because a large portion of patients at a similar Augusta clinic live in Columbia County, but Herrera doesn't buy it.
"They're going to say whatever they need to say to get people to stand behind what they're doing," he said.
The clinic is changing its morning hours from 5 to 10 a.m. They hope this eases some concerns about parking, and patients loitering around.
Herrera said he and the other business owners will just have to wait and see.
"The fact is, we're not going to know what's going until it starts going on," Herrera said.
He said he believes the clinic will not hurt his business and that his clients will keep coming.
We spoke with other store owners who are not as convinced. The owner of Peachmac tells News 12 his business slowed as soon as the clinic sign went up. He believes the perception of the clinic will keep shoppers away.
We spoke with a representative from Treatment Centers of America on the phone. They say they understand the store owner's concerns, but believe they stem from a lack of knowledge about the clinic. They hope to have an open house soon to invite the public to learn more about what they do and the patients they treat.