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Only on 12: New Columbia County methadone clinic defends location, treatment

Drug clinic

A new drug rehab clinic opening up in Columbia County has caused some controversy. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 8, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 8, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- A controversial drug rehab clinic is set to open its doors in Columbia County, which has some neighboring businesses concerned it may drive away customers.

This isn't the first time Treatment Centers of America has seen backlash from one of its clinics but say the awareness is worth the controversy.

Jeremy Pate, administrator for Treatment Centers of America, said when its Columbia County location was announced last year, there was concern from neighboring store owners.

"Honestly, my first thought was 'here we go again,' but not in a bad way," Pate said.

He says it gives him a chance to dispel rumors and talk about what the clinic really does. He says it treats opiate addiction through counseling, intervention and medication.

"Our goal for everyone coming into treatment is that they eventually be free of everything, including the service we provide here," Pate said.

But he admits, for some patients that's easier said than done.

"If someone has had this disease for a long time, then they may never be able to come off the medication; they may always need that medication to regulate their physical symptoms," Pate said.

That medication is methadone. Almost all opiate addiction clinics prescribe the powerful synthetic pain reliever for drug addicts looking to quit.

"They're not getting high, they're not having any sense of euphoria, they're just feeling normal," he said. "They're able to go to work, they're able to go to school, they're able to take care of their families."

Pate said the majority of the center's patients are middle class, working Americans.

"At any given time you might see a bicycle parked next to a Lexus in our parking lot," Pate said. "The vast majority of patients here started taking prescription medication because of some type of injury."

What the clinic does, and who their patients are, have not been as debated as much as where it is. The clinic is opening in a busy shopping center along even busier Washington Road.

"We're not a back-alley business," Pate said. "We're not ashamed of what we do."

Treatment Centers of Augusta hopes the buzz surrounding the business dies down.

"I understand that they have concerns," Pate said. "Give us a chance, be open-minded. We're going to be good neighbors."

Last year, an Augusta 3-year-old ingested his mother's prescription methadone and died. The mother is awaiting trial and has been charged with murder.

Treatment Centers of America says opiate treatment clinics are one of the -- if not the most -- regulated businesses in the state and call what happened in Augusta a tragic accident.

Treatment Centers of America has seven other locations around the state and is expanding into Florida. Pate says their Kennesaw, Ga., location opened up yards away from an apartment complex and a daycare.

He says since it opened, the controversy surrounding it has calmed down.

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