Methadone clinic chain eyes Rockland's Turning Tide
Rockland — A company that operates methadone clinics throughout Maine has interest in reopening the closed Turning Tide center.
The director of the Discovery House in Waterville and the attorney for the organization met last week with Rockland officials to discuss the zoning requirements needed to open a methadone clinic.
Telephone messages were left for both the director and attorney Christopher Vaniotis of Portland.
Discovery House operates methadone clinics in Waterville, Bangor, South Portland, and Calais as well as clinics in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Utah.
The interest by a separate company comes as the attorney for Turning Tide filed a formal appeal Oct. 18 in Knox County Superior Court over the state's suspension of the agency's license to operate in Maine. Attorney Jay McCloskey, a former federal prosecutor who represents Turning Tide, noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has refused to hold an appeal hearing because it said it is a moot point since the state has suspended the Rockland clinic's license.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspended the license, which closed the facility on Aug. 19. At the time, the DEA would only say that the suspension was done because of an "imminent threat to the health and safety of the public."
Angel Fuller-McMahan first proposed the clinic in November 2004 but it took a legal battle in federal court before the Rockland City Council agreed to allow Turning Tide to operate at its site on Route 1 at the Thomaston town line. The City Council had approved a zoning law that limited the clinic to the city's half mile stretch of Route 90 but later relented and agreed to zoning for the former Tuttle Shoe Barn to be used for the clinic.
The clinic opened in July 2008.
Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root, who was among the city officials who met with the Discovery House officials, said that the parties went over the contract zone that the city entered into with Turning Tide for the clinic to locate at the town line.
Root said one code issue that the city will need to address is parking. The contract zone requires parking sufficient to handle up to 160 patients. The state announced at the time of the closure on Aug. 19 that there were 276 patients being served. He said that this would require the project to go back before the planning board.
Fuller-McMahan, 42, of Owls Head, the founder of Turning Tide and its program director, was arrested July 13 and charged with felony possession of cocaine. Police at the time said that when they stopped Fuller-McMahan that day she was carrying 25 grams of cocaine and two hypodermic needles. She allegedly purchased the cocaine during a buy in a parking lot on New County Road, according to police.
The DEA also stated that the clinic owner arranged similar purchases of cocaine by enlisting the help of a cocaine runner identified only as C.G. who worked at Turning Tide as a drug and alcohol counselor.
Three days after Fuller-McMahan's arrest, Carol Gardner, 49, of Thorndike, was issued a summons for felony attempted possession of cocaine. Gardiner was a drug and alcohol counselor at Turning Tide.
The new information made public Oct. 14 was that Fuller-McMahan, prior to her arrest, allegedly arranged to purchase cocaine from a Turning Tide patient identified only as J.R.
Fuller-McMahan also approached another patient, identified as M.K., and offered to trade methadone for cocaine, according to the DEA report. The clinic owner said she would create a fraudulent order for methadone from the Knox County Jail and give the methadone to M.K. in exchange for the cocaine, according to the DEA report. This conversation reportedly occurred prior to November 2009.
The clinic owner engaged in at least three illegal drug transactions with another patient, identified as R.C., in which Fuller-McMahan purchased cocaine, according to the DEA report.
The report also noted that Fuller-McMahan was prohibited from ordering or handling controlled substances such as methadone. Fuller-McMahan was arrested by MDEA in 1997 for trafficking in drugs and ultimately pleaded guilty to possessing heroin.
Turning Tide also continued to employ her husband, Vance McMahan, despite his conviction for illegal drug possession in the same 1997 incident as his wife. He had access to the clinic's controlled substances and confidential patient information, the DEA report stated.
Fuller-McMahan filed a bankruptcy petition July 21 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The clinic owner filed under Chapter 13 and seeks to have her debts restructured.
In her petition, Fuller-McMahan claims to have assets of $1,774,000 and liabilities of $910,528.