A methadone clinic could open in Union Township as soon as next month.

Renovations have been completed in the former J.D. Byrider building on Route 224 for Discovery House — an outpatient addiction treatment program to be operated by Smart Management of Providence, R.I.

“State and federal licensure requirements, which include inspections by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and federal drug enforcement administration, are under way,” Rob Kornacki of Smart Management said.

“There is an overwhelming need for substance abuse treatment in western Pennsylvania,” Kornacki noted, saying many people commute 30 to 45 minutes for treatment.

“We believe it is better to serve people where they live,” he said. “It is less taxing for the individual, their families and employers.”

Kornacki anticipates serving 150 to 200 clients at the Union Township facility in the first year.

He said the location was selected because of its highway accessibility and because the zoning was compatible. Even the parking is abundant, he added.

The facility is being screened, as required by the zoning ordinance, he noted.

Although treatments are individualized, Kornacki said, all clinics operate in a similar fashion. Medications — in this case, methadone — are dispensed between 5 and 10 a.m. daily, with most activity expected between 5 and 7 a.m. The methadone is provided in a liquid form, which clients must swallow in the presence of the nursing staff, he explained.

Some clients also receive counseling to address life issues including work, family and other problems. Counselors will be on site until 2 p.m. daily.

“With our early-morning operating hours, we could be invisible to the community,” Kornacki said.

“We look forward to working with neighbors and becoming a part of the community.”


Kornacki said Discovery House has operated since 1987, with 19 treatment centers nationally. Six are in Pennsylvania, with the nearest in Cranberry and Hermitage.

“There is a lot of fear, stigma and misinformation surrounding these centers,” he said. “But they have a good track record for recovery and all are heavily regulated.”

Methadone stabilizes the brain chemicals of opiate drug users, he explained. It blocks cravings of opiates, including heroin, and generally does so without the severe symptoms that accompany heroin withdrawal.

The result is clients can lead “normal” lives that could include holding a job, he said.

On a national average, Kornacki said, clients are generally in treatment for 18 to 24 months.

The explosion of methadone clinics in the past seven to eight years corresponds to the explosion of prescription drug abuse, Kornacki noted.

Powerful opiates such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin are readily available, he pointed out. The pills are crushed and snorted for maximum immediate impact. Also, many abusers are young.

“Instead of a progression from cigarettes to alcohol to marijuana to other drugs to heroin, young users are going to prescription pills right out of the gate,” Kornacki said. “They are that available.”

He added opiate drug abuse is no longer reserved to urban areas. Clinics, similar to this one, are now needed in suburban and very rural settings.

“People want to think this is a city problem. But drug abuse has gone to the suburbs,” Kornacki said. “Treatment is following the need.”


Linda Farris, Union Township’s zoning officer, said the clinic’s representative purchased the property in the spring after establishing that under the current zoning ordinance, medical clinics are permitted in the township’s central commercial district.

“They didn’t even need a hearing for it,” she said. “The ordinance allowed it and we can’t stop it.”

The developer did not have to go before the zoning or planning boards to get permission to operate, she said. Nor was the approval of the supervisors required.

Farris explained that zoning laws protect not only homeowners who may oppose a development, they also protect developers so they can’t be discriminated against.

Since then, she said, the supervisors have amended the zoning ordinance. Now a medical clinic is a conditional use, even in the central commercial district. Approval is needed and conditions can be attached, Farris said.

She noted that Kornacki and Discovery House have been cooperative.

At Kornacki’s recommendation, Farris said, an advisory group of township officials, clinic representatives and area residents will be formed to address concerns neighbors have raised.

“This is reputable company and we’ve had no problems working with them,” she said. “We expect them to be good neighbors.”

In February, township residents raised concerns about a clinic opening in their neighborhood. Last month the supervisors said the clinic meets zoning requirements.


Attorney Jonathan Solomon, representing Freedom Healthcare Services, also is interested in the development.

Freedom Healthcare proposed locating a methadone clinic in the former Villanova Inn on East Washington Street. Solomon and Angelo Papa, representing the New Castle Zoning Hearing Board, argued last month in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court after the board turned down the clinic’s request to open.

Solomon said he will pursue the appeal, even if the Union Township clinic opens.

“I am told there is a need locally” for a methadone treatment clinic, he said.

Solomon said he was contacted by Union Township officials when Discovery House first approached the township about a year ago.

“They asked questions about procedures,” he said of the township officials, “but I was told the supervisors would not oppose it. They haven’t.”

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