Residents of The Dakota are often bewildered to step outside their residence hall in the morning and into a crowd of former heroin addicts.
The group on the corner of 21st and F streets mainly includes clients of Partners in Drug Abuse Rehabilitation and Counseling, a methadone clinic located next to The Dakota in 2112 F St.
It is an odd sight in a residential neighborhood populated mostly by college students, and some neighbors question the clinic’s placement – though it has existed there for almost 20 years.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s fact sheet, methadone is a medication that curbs withdrawal and dependence symptoms by blocking receptors in the brain accustomed to an opioid, usually heroin.
For students, the clinic is an opportunity for some interesting eavesdropping as the patients wait for rides on the corner.
“They have all these crazy conversations,” said junior Luke McQueen. “I think someone once used code to tell someone else he was going to use drugs out back.”
Michael Akin, GW’s director of community relations, said the University is not overly concerned about the clinic.
“A few years ago a couple of people in the neighborhood asked if we could weigh in either for or against the clinic,” Akin said. “We asked the question among students, and no one could really point to any problems that stemmed from it.”
The community at large has not been so receptive.
Elizabeth Elliot, a recently retired member of the Foggy Bottom Association, said that the clinic “has had ups and downs” since it moved to its current location.
“There’s been ongoing problems with the park across the street,” she said. “It’s been a major conduit for clients and kind of a hang-out for vagrants.”
Ron Cocum, the former president of the FBA, said he also disagrees with the clinic’s presence in Foggy Bottom.
“We think it’s a wholly inappropriate location for it, being in a residential neighborhood,” he said. “We’ve never been pleased with it.”
The clinic’s lease does not expire until 2011, so it will not likely be moving in the near future, said Pete Hill-Byrne, the property’s director of commercial leasing.
GW alumnus Kris Hart, a GW alumnus and owner of Relaxed Tanning, the day spa and tanning salon located directly across from the clinic, confessed that he was concerned about the clinic when he bought the space for his business, but he has not encountered any problems with it.
“They don’t crap in their own backyard,” Hart said of the patients. “They come, they get on a bus, they leave.”
But Hart also does not see the motivation behind the location.
“I don’t get it why it is in this neighborhood, because it doesn’t really serve the neighborhood,” he said.
Though the clinic is not a hotspot for Foggy Bottom residents, the building is home almost exclusively to doctors’ offices, clinics and other health facilities.
The Foundation for Contemporary Mental Health – the parent organization of the clinic – is also located in the building. Its president, Howard Hoffman, declined requests to be interviewed.
Patients of the clinic, who were interviewed by The Hatchet, declined to be identified because they did not want to be associated with drugs.
One client, who has been going to the clinic since before it relocated to Foggy Bottom, said that methadone is probably issued to “at least 100” patients at the clinic every day. The clinic supplements this treatment with regular counseling.
Another client said he had been given “another chance to live.”
The man said being treated on campus is an opportunity to speak to students and that he is eager to preach the lessons his mistakes have taught him, like “don’t be a fool, stay in school.”