Injunction to force treatment definitions

On Friday, Marietta Law Director Paul Bertram penned a letter to Oriana House Inc. leadership explaining Marietta City Council’s action Thursday night.

Marietta City Council unanimously authorized Bertram through Resolution 56 to initiate legal action to enforce city zoning and permitting processes at Thursday’s council meeting.

“The city of Marietta is putting Oriana on notice that we believe the procedures have not been followed correctly,” he explained Friday. “I am writing a letter to Oriana’s attorney explaining what happened (at council’s regular business meeting) and our point of view and offering to have discussions over that view. At the close of that letter, I’m informing them that we plan to file an action imminently.”

He said council’s vote does not block the sale of the former Woman’s Home to Oriana House, which is currently pending. It authorized Bertram to file an injunction in Washington County Common Pleas Court pausing any sales closing and other activity at 812 Third St., including any modifications to the property and/or additional furnishing to prepare for residents.

Oriana House Inc. is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit which provides addiction treatment services, community corrections programs and behavioral health services in Ohio.

The nonprofit currently operates a halfway house and correctional center in Reno, has a contract with Washington County Common Pleas Court to run the drug court under Judge Mark Kerenyi and intends to install a voluntary intensive residential treatment facility at 812 Third St.

Bertram also noted that the lobbying of council members by St. Mary Catholic School parents and grandparents during a recess and the recall vote which the legislative body took Thursday night following the recess was legal.

The recall vote was a procedural avenue to suspend the two required additional readings of the injunction authorization and allow for Bertram to file the action next week.

What’s next

Bertram explained Friday that the injunction will be filed next week and would begin a series of required discussions and potentially a judicial decision not only on city zoning and permitting laws pertaining to the 812 Third St. sale, but also federal fair housing requirements for addicts as a protected class.

“Once filed, (Oriana) has to be served with a temporary restraining order,” explained Bertram. “Then another hearing must occur likely within 10 days of the filing unless parties agree to push that out further, to consider extending the restraining order, and/or requiring parties to provide arguments.”

Bertram said then the schedule and direction of the court takes control of the discussions, potential mediation and ultimately decisions over the points of contention raised by the city and Oriana House.

Oriana House Vice President Bernie Rochford said Thursday that the nonprofit’s legal counsel will also be reviewing its next steps.

Points of contention

• Bertram and council allege that Oriana House has not completed the permitting process required by city ordinances to begin operations at 812 Third St.

• Non-conforming uses allowed within the residential zone (R2) the city requires to be approved by the city planning commission, a step which Rochford has explained in the past that Oriana does not believe it must complete.

• Many St. Mary Catholic School parents are hedging their bets that the intended use of 812 Third St. by Oriana will not be legal beginning June 29 after distance requirements for treatment near schools changes from restrictions of methadone administration for addiction treatment to opioid treatment.

Methadone is a synthetic analgesic drug that is similar to morphine in its effects but longer acting and is used as a substitute drug in the treatment of morphine and heroin addiction.

Other medications like methadone are used in detox settings and in the maintenance of sobriety from opioid addiction. These can include Vivitrol and suboxone.

The changes to Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5119.371 were passed in the Ohio statehouse after introduced in House Bill 111.

Ohio Reps. Rick Carfagna and Scott Ryan were the primary sponsors of the bill, but Southeast Ohio representation from Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards and Sen. Frank Hoagland also appeared in co-sponsorship.

“Ohio’s need for greater mental health resources is compounded by the scarcity of medical professionals that can deal with individuals in crisis,” Carfagna said in a press release after HB 111’s passage. “We can further help our most vulnerable citizens when time is of the essence.”

Hoagland explained Friday that the primary intention behind the bill, though titled to ensure nurses could prescribe and initiate required mental health treatment for patients, is access to services.

“The mission for us with that bill was to expand services in the Appalachian area where doctors can be scarce,” he explained. “(Subsequent) definitions did change, and many were broadened. The intent was to broaden definitions enough so that those certified and qualified in the medical and mental health realms can provide what’s needed. If you keep the definitions so narrow that only a doctor can do it, then you remove rural access to those services.”

The change from methadone treatment to opioid treatment, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code in both the current law and what takes effect June 29, are further explained in other sections of Chapter 5119–referencing the administration of medications for pain and in treating chemical dependency.

But what is also referenced in that chapter is are federal definitions under 21 U.S. Code 823 which differentiates opioid treatment as an administration of opioids for treatment of addiction and in detoxification from “the treatment of (an) opioid use disorder.”

What a judge may have to rule on through Washington County Common Pleas Court is whether the parents’ argument applies.

Parents allege that because opioid treatment will be prohibited from occurring within a radius of 500 linear feet of a public or private school, child daycare center or child-serving agency after June 29, Oriana House’s intended location at 812 Third St. diagonally across the alley from St. Mary Catholic School may be illegal.