Monday, March 17, 2008

A second chance

If you've been reading me for awhile, you're probably well aware of my stand on the proposed doctor's office specializing in addiction medicine that's looking to move to Fitchburg.

If not, feel free to look here and get caught up. Good? Okay, onward!

It seems that the ill-fated bid of Fitchburg Primary Care Associates to get a zoning exemption has a second chance, per this article in the Sentinel. Expect editorials from the Sentinel once again opposing it in the next couple of weeks. [Update 3/18: That was fast!]

Anyway, most of the article is rehashing the ill-informed opinions of various city councilors who were opposed to the clinic in the first place, and remain opposed to it now. Shocking!

And once again, Jody Joseph is the sole local voice of reason. Thank you, Mr. Joseph!

Why's there another hearing? Well, it seems that the ZBA screwed up the first one:
State law, [Attorney for the practice George] Watts said, requires that a hearing be advertised by public notice 14 days prior to the hearing. Watts said the hearing was posted on Jan. 2, six days before the Jan. 8 hearing.
Okay, so that's pretty simple. They survive on a technicality. It also explains a bit of why the representative of the medical practice is reported to have been somewhat unprepared at the last hearing.

What that means is they have a difficult road ahead of them for getting through this next time (date not set, but expected to be in April or May). People don't like to reverse themselves, and the ignorance and fear that led to the first "no" decision isn't likely to have gone away.

Since I support the opening of this practice, here are a few unsolicited suggestions for the representatives of Fitchburg Primary Care Associates at the next meeting.
  • You are a business and you want to come to Fitchburg. That's good! Highlight it!
  • People will claim there are enough places in Fitchburg to serve addiction already. Research what these places are, what they do, and what populations they serve. Debunk the myth of there being plenty of treatment options available and highlight how you will bring a new and valuable service to the town.
  • Attack the myth of the "dangerous addict" head-on. That's the biggest fear driving people to oppose you and is demonstrably untrue. Don't just rely on research though, consider bringing along a couple of well-spoken patients (or former patients) to demonstrate to everyone that addicts are not what they think they are.
  • Demand to be treated as any other business would. If you meet the qualifications, you should get the permit, period.
  • See if you can drum up some local doctors or other professionals who deal with addiction to appear with you. Call up HealthAlliance and see if they have anyone willing to come to your aid. It doesn't even necessarily have to be in person, see if you can get doctors to sign a petition. I guarantee you'll find support.
  • Research, research, research. If anyone has a question, have a good answer. If anyone has an objection based on ignorance, educate them. Not just anecdotes, give them facts and figures they hadn't heard before.
  • Make sure whomever you have representing you at the hearing knows their stuff, inside and out. Also make sure they're ready to face a hostile audience. The Sentinel will do its part to whip up public outrage about something they don't understand, so you're going to have an uphill battle.
  • Embrace that you specialize in addiction medicine. If primary care isn't your main focus, don't play it up. Otherwise people will think you're trying to pull something over on them.
  • Be prepared for anything.
Well, that's it off the top of my head.

There's absolutely no reason this clinic shouldn't be able to open in Fitchburg. It would benefit the town, it would benefit the population, and it would harm nobody.

Good luck.

No comments: