DEER PARK, Ohio -- Parents outraged by the location of a new heroin clinic held a protest Saturday in an effort to compel the organization to move to another part of town and city council plans to revisit the issue at a meeting Monday.
The Prime Health Group site is catty corner to Amity Elementary School on E. Galbraith Road. Public school students in Deer Park attend the school from fourth through sixth grade.
Although it has been open for five months, the facility has come under intensified public scrutiny over the past few weeks.
After several days of talking to company officials and community leaders, parents took to the streets Saturday to vocalize their dissatisfaction with the fact the clinic is so close to their children's classrooms.
"We don't think it's very responsible, as citizens, to allow this to be located within 1,000 feet of the school," said Steven Wilcoxson, one of several dozen protestors who held up signs outside the facility.
The group also asked passersby to sign an online petition to have the clinic moved. It's posted on the website Change.org .
Wilcoxson and others in attendance said they fear the persons who benefit from the services provided by the center could potentially expose their children to safety risks.
"We have other safeguards at all this stuff -- you know, prisons, they have extreme security measures, security guards and that's where people go to rehabilitate for crimes," he said. "It is very rare criminals escape from prisons, but we don't go building prisons next to our schools."
The patients who use the services at the new Prime Health Group location are addicted to heroin and/or other substances. Medical staff at the facility uses a variety of methods to wean them off the substance(s) to which their addicted.
While some members of the staff can write prescriptions, they can't fill them at the facility. And no medications are kept at the site, which is stated in a sign posted in one of the windows in the building.
Parents attempted to point out that their issue isn't with the clinic or the fact it's in Deer Park. Their sole concern, they claim, is its present physical location.
"I'm completely fine with it being in Deer Park. We need help, but not next to a school," said parent Alicia Creech, who referred to the city as a "walking community."
"We have kids that walk (to school)," she said. "We don't have a bus system. Kids leave by themselves and they get there by themselves. That's my major concern."
Even though the clinic doesn't operate during traditional school hours -- after 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends -- some parents at the protest believe their children are at risk. They cited events like after-school activities and sports as examples of when schedules might overlap.
Parents voiced similar concerns at a town hall meeting Thursday. The assembly also gave residents a chance to hear from city leaders on the topic.
However, with some questions left unanswered, Creech, Wilson, Wilcoxson and other parents planned Saturday's protest as a way to voice their issues in a more public forum.
Dawn Clifton still worries about students' safety.
"I still feel that it's such a poor location choice, like if a bar opened up directly across the street from the school," she said. "I would absolutely feel the same way."
City Councilman Charles Tassell's daughter is in the fifth grade at Amity and says he isn't worried about the location of the facility. He also said he feels the term "clinic" fails to accurately describe what takes place there.
"There's an organized set of lies about it. This is a psychiatrist. It's a psychiatrist's office. That's what it is," Tassell said. "To say it's more than that is misconception and lies."
Tassell said council will revisit the issue at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.