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The APT Foundation serves as an important resource for Greater New Haven residents struggling with substance abuse disorder, providing services ranging from primary health care to family counseling services for patients. But in spite of its purported benefits, the foundation’s New Haven clinic continues to face criticism from local residents.

The foundation’s Legion Clinic on Congress Avenue, which serves roughly 1,000 people per year, is located across from the entrance of the John C. Daniels Interdistrict School of International Communication. City residents have raised concerns about the unintended effects of this proximity on the safety and well-being of parents and students at the school. Residents have also criticized the clinic for allegedly causing an uptick in crime and drug use.

In an interview with the News, John C. Daniels’ Parent Teacher Organization President and founder of Connecticut Heroin Users Union Sylvester Salcedo said that the clinic’s presence near the school has caused tension among members of the school community. He feels that the off-duty police officer — for whom the clinic pays — is an unnecessary expenditure. Salcedo, who is concerned about the school’s budget, added that he is frustrated that money is being used needlessly right outside the doors of the school.

“We are operating on a very slim budget. … They’re really wasting money and we could be using it for our school,” Salcedo said. “Why continue to waste this money?”

Salcedo mentioned that he sometimes ran into people he assumed to be clinic patients in the school’s park. He said he had “heard of parents complaining on our playing field about used syringes” found in the park. Representatives from the school did not respond to requests to comment for this article.

Salcedo said that he has repeatedly reached out to representatives from APT to voice his concerns but feels that those concerns have not yet been addressed. He said that although employees have been receptive, “it never really goes anywhere.”

The foundation’s CEO Lynn Madden said that she has not directly interacted with anyone from John C. Daniels but that the Congress Avenue clinic director attends community management team meetings. In an interview with the News, clinic director Cathy Eggert said she attends the Hill North Management Team meetings. She said that although officials from the school had not reached out to her, she had been in contact with Salcedo.

This is not the first time the APT Foundation has been the subject of criticism. At the Human Services Committee hearing last September, residents alleged that the clinic brought increased crime and incidents of drug use to the Hill neighborhood where it is located. Some complained of finding used needles in green spaces near the clinic.

“APT has chosen to centralize its dispensing of methadone and buprenorphine in New Haven. And unlike other medication assisted treatment centers, it dispenses drugs whether people have clean urine or not, attracting an even higher proportion of those with the most significant additional needs,” Kica Matos, the director of immigration at the Center for Community Change, wrote in an op-ed last September. “It is time for all of us to come together to tackle the problem before another tragedy visits New Haven.”

In response to the September hearing, the APT Foundation Congress Avenue location created a waiting space for patients, according to Madden. The space was completed in January and includes computers for patients to conduct job searches. According to Madden, the APT Foundation discourages “people hanging around outside and loitering.” In addition, the clinic shifted its operating hours. The clinic now opens before school starts and closes before the school day ends.

The city is struggling with the opioid crisis. On Aug. 16, the New Haven Green was overrun with police officers, EMTs and other personnel racing to help the scores of New Haven residents vomiting and convulsing. Before the end of the day, over 100 individuals had overdosed on K2 in the city, most of them within the 16-acre confines of the New Haven Green.

Individuals interviewed by the News stressed the importance of an APT clinic in New Haven as a resource for those who face addiction. Madden said that she hopes to change the narrative surrounding substance abuse to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction. Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 explained that New Haven suburbs have antiquated zoning policies that prevent service providers like the APT Foundation from building in their neighborhoods.

“New Haven, being the city we are — being the righteous, courageous city we are — we actually take care of these people who need our help,” said Catalbasoglu.

According to Madden, patients at the clinic first undergo an evaluation and a physical before physicians determine if medication is necessary. For the first couple months, patients come in on a daily basis to receive their medication. Once they become more stable, they can receive medication to take home and manage their treatment themselves.

The APT Foundation serves 8,000 people per year across all five locations in Connecticut. Eighty percent of APT Foundation patients are from the Greater New Haven area.

Alexandra Bauman | alexandra.bauman@yale.edu