Suboxone Treatment Permitted In Linthicum
By Kevin Plessner
LSIA first learned about the existence of Phaeton Health Group, LLC on October 9, 2017. A concerned Linthicum resident reported to LSIA that a business was advertising opioid treatment and “has been opened for about 4-6 months in Linthicum.” It quickly became apparent to LSIA that Phaeton Health Group either planned to or had already been prescribing and/or administering suboxone (an alternative to Methadone) at a location across from the Stavlas Shopping Center. Once the basic facts of this report were substantiated, LSIA immediately contacted our local elected representatives and County zoning enforcement to report the suspected illegal activity. Anne Arundel County zoning enforcement indicated that it was not aware of the clinic until LSIA reported it.
LSIA held its monthly meeting in the Lindale Middle School auditorium just two days later. During this meeting, Councilman Smith reported that he had co-sponsored Bill No. 14-15 in the County Council in 2015 that prohibits "state licensed medical clinics" within 1,000 feet of schools or dwellings. This bill was ultimately passed into law and prohibits a state licensed medical clinic from Phaeton Health’s location. Phaeton Health Group is directly adjacent to residences, the light rail and, of course, Linthicum Elementary School.
County Executive Schuh was also in attendance at the LSIA meeting on October 11. He shared Councilman Smith’s view that Phaeton Health was “in an inappropriate location,” should not be close to homes or schools and that the law is clearly against the clinic getting a permit so it will need to find a new location. He went on to explain that his office believes that the clinic opened without the knowledge of the County, and without a permit. Furthermore, he explained, the clinic does not have County authorization to operate. County Executive Schuh concluded that Phaeton Heath did not receive the required permits and was not conforming to the law described above. We were advised that the County would send an injunction to the business to stop operating and that it would not be able to remain in its current location.
Further investigation by LSIA revealed that the first website that Google displays using the search term “Phaeton Health” is suboxone-directory.com/suboxone/phaeton-health-group/, which reports that “Phaeton Health Group is an addiction medicine practice in Linthicum Heights, Maryland that offers Outpatient Buprenorphine Treatment (Suboxone).” This information is still being reported on this website as of the date of submission of this article for publication. Phaeton Health Group’s own website also states, as of the time submitting this article for publication, that “Our physicians are suboxone waivered”. See http://www.phaetonhealthgroup.com/other.html
LSIA also discovered that in October 2017 Phaeton Health Group had distributed flyers to the other tenants of the building at 518 Camp Meade Rd which advertise opioid and suboxone treatment. An eye witness substantiated that the flyers came from representatives of Phaeton Health Group, so the ads cannot be denied by Phaeton Health Group. The flyers advertised only opioid treatment and no other services. The flyer begins with “Phaeton Health Group…Addiction to Opioids?” The flyer then goes on to explain that
The Phaeton Health Group is a Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic that is now open in Linthicum Heights MD that is designed to help individuals discontinue the use of opioids, and other narcotic prescription pain killers, with the assistance of the medication Suboxone, Subutex as well as referrals to certified rehab therapists.”
Numerous attempts to reach Phaeton Health Group to ask questions and gain their perspective about their business (including phone calls, website inquiries and site visits) have all gone unanswered.
An investigation was undertaken by Anne Arundel County zoning enforcement and Anne Arundel County Police to gather all evidence of Phaeton Health Group’s potential illegal activities. The County zoning enforcement office first sent Phaeton Health Group a notice of non-compliance, stating that the business is less than 1,000 feet from a school, less than 1,000 feet from residences and there is not a “no loitering” sign as required in the code. The County gave Phaeton Health until November 1 to come within compliance.
On November 29, 2017, during a meeting that Councilman Smith held at Lindale Middle School, Councilman Smith reported that County Inspections and Permits has put the clinic into surveillance. Surveillance has shown that the clinic has been closed during the day. There was a report that someone went there in the evening and there have been reports that four or five people have gone to the suboxone clinic after hours. Furthermore, Councilman Smith reported that the investigation will be wrapped up shortly and that outpatient medical clinics are not permitted in this location.
The County conducted site inspections and interviews, including at least one interview with “one of the doctors who owns the clinic.” The doctor denied running a “state licensed medical clinic” as is prohibited by the County code. Phaeton Health was instructed to provide proof that they are not a state licensed medical clinic. Phaeton Health ultimately continued to deny that it is providing opioid treatment in violation of the law. Instead, Phaeton Health now purports that it is merely a consulting business, notwithstanding all of the written evidence and statement from at least one witness with personal knowledge to the contrary.
The Anne Arundel County Office of Planning & Zoning submitted the results of its investigation to the County Office of Law in November, 2017. LSIA received notification in February from the Office of Planning and Zoning that the Office of Law does not believe that there is any evidence that Phaeton Health Group is operating as a suboxone clinic. It’s impossible to determine why the Office of Law came to this conclusion since the County Executive’s office has declined to provide any further explanation, as discussed in more detail below. At this time (February), the County advised LSIA that it needed more time to investigate the Phaeton Health Group.
On March 23, 2017, LSIA received a message from County Executive Schuh’s office reporting that not only will the Office of Law not bring suit against Phaeton Health Group, but that “[t]he Office of Zoning Enforcement based on their investigation and Police monitoring issued Phaeton Health a Certificate of Use as an ‘office for Occupational Medicine Consulting’. This authorizes only that use and does not permit them to operate a state licensed medical clinic or a suboxone clinic.”
LSIA requested that County Executive Schuh’s office answer some questions regarding the decision to issue Phaeton Health Group a permit instead of enforcing what others believe to be the law. LSIA was referred to the Public Information Officer to answer questions. The Public Information Officer asked LSIA to submit the questions in writing. Ultimately, after several weeks of following up, Executive Schuh’s Constituent Officer finally declined to answer any questions about why the County Code was not enforced, what the Office of Law’s reasoning was, whether Executive Schuh is supportive of this decision, whether the investigation continues and a number of other questions that we raised relating to Phaeton Health Group.
Councilman Smith continues to be opposed to this type of business in this location. He explains that he “sent them a detailed case of why I believe they were violating Bill 14-15, Zoning - State - Licensed Medical Clinics. We passed this bill in 2015 to affect entities such as this. The Office of Law, however, does not directly work for the County Council. The do provide opinions on issues we are concerned about. I still believe Phaeton Health Group is violating the spirit of bill 14-15 and would be willing to have this matter deferred to the judicial process.” In describing further efforts to have the clinic move to another location, he explained that he “…also communicated with the Health Department to find a way to cite or close this establishment. I was, and am still, willing to force this business to court…”
I am an attorney who is has been licensed to practice law for ten years. In my reading of the County Code, it is difficult to imagine how Phaeton Health Group would not be regulated by this law, given the broad scope of the prohibition. However, the County Office of Law has determined that it “do[es] not feel that there is enough evidence to proceed with a civil suit at this time.” Since the executive branch of government has declined to provide LSIA with any explanation of how this law does not apply to Phaeton Health Group, we are left only with what we were able to uncover – that Phaeton Health Group was advertising opioid treatment across the street from our elementary school and homes, and that the County provided the business with a permit. It is worth noting that I also sent a Public Information Act (“PIA”) request for pertinent documents related to the Office of Planning and Zoning’s investigation but did not receive the documents in time to review prior to submission of this article for publication. I will update this article when the County Executive’s offices provide me with the information that I am requesting.
LSIA plans to continue to push this issue until there is an acceptable resolution. Since the County has refused to act by bringing an appropriate law suit against Phaeton Health Group, we will need to be the eyes and ears for our community. Citizens are able to file reports of zoning violations with the Office of Planning and Zoning. If you oppose the Phaeton Health Group’s location and believe that the Office of Law should enforce the County Code or at least let us know what is going on, let our elected representatives know about it. The Office of Law is under the purview County Executive so his office would be a good place to start. The County Attorney, who heads the Office of Law, is appointed by the County Executive himself. If the County allows this type of business to continue to operate in our neighborhood, this could set a terrible precedent.
Anne Arundel County Executive
Steven R. Schuh Arundel Center
44 Calvert Street
Annapolis, MD 21404-1831
County Council (District 1)
Councilman Peter Smith
44 Calvert Street, 1st Floor
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
 Bill No. 14-15 (now codified in Anne Arundel County Code 18-1-101(123) and 18-10-149) provides, in pertinent part, that
State-licensed medical clinic means an outpatient medical clinic licensed by the state of Maryland as a detoxification facility or a substance abuse treatment program under Title 8, Subtitle 4 of the Health General Article including programs exempt from licensing requirements under section 8-403(C)(1) of the Health General Article of the state code….A state-licensed medical clinic shall comply with all of the following requirements:
(1) The facility may not be located within 1000 feet of a dwelling or school… [emphasis added]
Title 8, Subtitle 4 of the Health General Article provides that, inter alia, “[t]he administration shall…[p]romote , develop, establish, conduct, certify, and monitor programs for the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation related to the misuse of alcohol and drugs…” (MD Health-Gen Code §8-401 (2015)) [emphasis added].
 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is an agency within The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), defines “Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) [as] the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose.” https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment