Discovery House plans to open a medically assisted substance use disorder treatment clinic at 14 Edison Drive in Augusta. The city’s Planning Board unanimously approved the proposal Tuesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A medical clinic that will treat people in recovery from opioid addiction with both counseling and suboxone or methadone doses onsite was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Planning Board.

The proposed Acadia Healthcare Treatment Center will be located in an existing building at 14 Edison Drive, where it will share a driveway with a Days Inn hotel and several other businesses.

Acadia Healthcare runs 157 comprehensive treatment centers across 39 states, including six in Maine. Adrienne Sass, the group’s regional director, said Acadia Healthcare decided to open a location in Augusta because it currently serves about 180 patients from the capital area at its other clinics in Waterville and South Portland.

She said that’s a long commute “and we are looking to reduce access barriers to treatment, which is why we’re looking in this area.”

Sass said the facility would have controlled substances onsite — suboxone and methadone — that some patients would receive doses of to reduce their cravings for opioids and help prevent withdrawal symptoms.

“We do have controlled substances onsite, so I just want to point that out and let you know we have very stringent policies, guidelines and procedures,” Sass said at a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night. “We are regulated by state government, the federal government and DEA. Everything is at least triple-locked. So all medication is stored in an alarmed, locked safe, which is stored in an alarmed, locked dispensary, which is in an alarmed, locked building.”


Two people spoke in opposition to the clinic, which was approved by the board as a conditional use in the regional business zoning district.

One critic, Peter Morris, co-founder and chief executive officer of Everest Recovery, said he doesn’t think the need is there for an additional, competing clinic. Morris opened a clinic offering similar services 1.4 miles up Western Avenue from Edison Drive, at 16 Association Drive in Manchester.

“We opened Aug.14, so I certainly feel the need is being met by a program that offers the exact same service,” said Morris, whose clinic currently treats about 75 patients. “The population in the Kennebec area, 180 patients, with two clinics splitting those up, as a business model kind of doesn’t make sense.”

Bob Corey, chairman of the board, noted whether there is already a competing business in an area is not at all part of the criteria board members review when considering proposals. He welcomed the treatment offered by both clinics.

“I’m very happy to see you come to Augusta, here in the state, you’re presenting some very much-needed stuff,” Corey said. “I’m also happy (Morris) is opening up his place down the road. I think there is more than enough room for two locations. This is serious enough of a thing that’s happening, not only in Maine, but all across the United States.”

Sam Oppenheim, a financial advisor with an office at 378 Western Ave., in front of Margarita’s restaurant and about 600 feet away from the proposed clinic’s entrance, said he thinks substance abuse treatment facilities are incredibly important and needed across the country and in the community to help fight the drug epidemic. But he expressed worry the clinic’s proximity to his office could prompt concerns from some of his clients.


“I believe I have several clients who may have concerns about coming to visit me with this facility about 150 yards away,” Oppenheim said. “We’re already having issues with finding beer bottles, empty liquor bottles and hypodermic needles on our property, often on a weekly basis. Recently we’re having an issue with mentally ill and unhoused people coming in to use our bathroom, which we don’t have an issue with, but they often yell at us, and themselves, before they leave. We have four years left on our lease and while we do love the area and the community we’re serving, I’m concerned this could potentially cause us to lose clients and impact our future in this building.”

Board member Cathy Cobb said people who are unhoused or who may be abusing drugs in the area are “obviously not folks who are seeking treatment. And I’m a little uncomfortable lumping people receiving treatment — who are in a very structured, gold-standard treatment program — with people who are homeless or using hypodermic needles, who could be leaving the restaurant.”

Board members approved the clinic’s application unanimously, after about 45 minutes.

“I am happy that more treatment would be coming,” said Emily Theriault, board member. “Whether it’s not just folks from Augusta, it’s the greater central Maine area, or whoever that might commute to this business. Thank you for your proposal.”

Sass said some patients will come to the site for a dose of medication seven days a week. Patients also undergo counseling, both in person and over the telephone. The clinic will operate from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sass said its peak time with the most patient visits will be from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

In an unrelated proposal, Gov. Janet Mills announced Monday the state will provide $2 million to create and operate an overnight and walk-in facility, including 10 detox beds, in Kennebec County where people can get help with substance use disorder.

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