Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Appalling

“I was appalled,” Lodi Mayor Karen Viscana said on hearing the news. Her reaction suggested she had learned of some recent calamity. Perhaps Mayor Viscana was reacting to the Myanmar government’s continued refusal to admit aid workers to the country to assist cyclone victims? But no, that was not it. She was not responding to a disaster on that scale or, for that matter, on any scale. What the mayor found so repellent was that the town’s zoning officer, Joel Lavin, had approved an application for a methadone clinic within the town.

The mayor was not alone in her umbrage. According to newspaper reports, more than a hundred residents packed two recent council meetings to demand his immediate ouster. Perhaps they wanted to exact a greater penalty for his transgression. After all, property values were sure to plummet and children and the senior residents would be exposed to people being treated for an addiction to drugs.

Mr. Lavin had explained his rationale for issuing a certificate of occupancy to Pathways to Health to operate an outpatient clinic for heroin addicts. The section of town in question, he noted, allows doctor and dentist offices, so it seemed clear to him that a facility treating patients with an addiction certainly would be an appropriate use. That line of reasoning appears sound enough. Or it would if addiction were truly understood and accepted as a disease.

Such understanding does not exist, not even close. The” appalling” act was promptly undone by the borough council. And not only did the governing body reverse Mr. Lavin’s use approval, it also suspended him and is reviewing whether to eliminate his position altogether. It seems that Lodi found the idea of treating addicts in its midst so revolting that it wanted to erase any trace of the episode.

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