Mathers Clinic one step closer to bringing a new methadone clinic to Rockford

Updated: ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A local counseling center is one step closer to bringing another methadone clinic to the Rockford area.

The Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special use permit for Mathers Clinic to place the new clinic on East State Street next to the old Circuit City building, but some think this is not the right place for a methadone clinic.

"I really think we’re providing something that everyone's going to be happy with,” said Robert Meyer, a clinical psychologist at Mathers Clinic.

Mathers says the location is a perfect place for the clinic because it’s easy to get to. During a public hearing, several neighboring business owners spoke in opposition of the clinic. They questioned the security it would have in place and raised concerns about possible loitering issues.

"There's misconceptions about treatment facilities and the population of people that get treated, said Dr. Jose Montes, a psychiatrist at Mathers Clinic. "But reality is it’s an illness and it's a deadly illness that has taken lives. And so as many treatment facilities we can have to help these people is worth it."

Mathers has applied for the clinic twice before and was denied both times. The center says many people suffering from addiction need this clinic. Alderman Beach says the community needs to get to the root of addiction rather than trying to solve the symptoms of it.

The Zoning Board of Appeals approved the clinic in a vote of 4-3. It will now go to the Codes and Regulations Committee before being voted on by the full city council. The proposed clinic would operate from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- 124 people in Winnebago County died from opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the Office of the Winnebago County Coroner. A local counseling and mental health clinic is working to lower that number by bringing another methadone clinic to the Rockford area.

Opioid addictions can be treated with methadone. That's why Mathers Clinic applied for a special use permit to bring a methadone clinic to Rockford. This idea has been brought to Rockford City Council for the past four years but has been turned down. That's because residents in the area didn't want a clinic near them for fear of criminals. Mathers is looking at a new location next to the Circuit City building on East State Street. Remedies Renewing Lives doesn't think the city needs a second clinic since it already treats opioid addicts, but Mathers says this clinic would treat a different market of patients than Remedies does.

"People have a misconception of opioid addicts. The people we treat are not junkies in the streets, most of the people who get addicted to opioids are normal people. Let's say they break their ankle, the doctor gets them on Vicodin or Norco, after a while you get used to it and you like the feeling. Unlike other drugs, opioids give you a sense of well-being. So we are talking about well-functioning people who got into bad habits, like the feeling, started abusing it, and can't get out because their body is hooked on the effects of the opioids,” said Dr. Ramesh Vemuri, MD, the Chief Executive Officer at Mathers Clinic.

"I guess my question if there is really a need? I look at Chicago which is obviously a lot larger than Rockford, and there are 3 methadone clinics in Chicago. So it's not like you have 10 or 11 substance abuse treatment program, often you only have one to a community," said Gary Halbach, the President & CEO of Remedies Renewing Lives.

Remedies does not turn people away since they have a grant that provides funding for those who can't pay for treatment. Mathers says it wouldn't take Medicare patients.

A public hearing on the clinic will take place next week. If approved it could open within 4 to 6 months.