Monday, July 16, 2012

An overwrought rap on Bain from the Boston Phoenix?

The Boston Phoenix has apparent new grist for the Bain-the-vampire mill: a tale in which Bain portfolio company CRC Health  tries to get a methadone clinic opened in a small town in Maine (Warren, pop. 5000).  Reporter Sydney Leonard lays a prologue for a stark morality tale:
Bain Capital is showing its stripes in a battle in Warren, Maine, that has lasted the past two years, and counting.

Rather than demonstrating Bain building businesses, communities, and society, the story of that battle reveals the strategies, techniques, and tactics Bain uses to force its goals upon unwilling, and sometimes unsuspecting, regular people. And results from similar assaults on other communities demonstrate the profit-at-any-cost mentality that has laid waste to lives and communities — a far cry from Romney's campaign-trail tales of success.

The company's unyielding efforts to open a methadone clinic in Warren have turned the town into a costly battleground, making enemies of friends and neighbors, racking up legal fees, and marking a local businessman as public enemy number one in the community he has always called home.
Leonard's own reporting, however, provides ample grounds to question this editorializing.  He makes it clear, first, that the need for a new methadone clinic in the area was very real:

In August 2010, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration shut down Turning Tide, the methadone clinic in Rockland, the next town over. Owner Angel Fuller-McMahan was allegedly dealing cocaine. Among the nearly 300 patients left without a medical provider was Emery's son, Robert III.

It was the opportunity CRC was looking for. "We're a national company," CRC's Bohman says. "[We're] always looking for opportunity in any state, and when Turning Tide Inc. closed we knew there was an unmet need in the community."

The Maine Office of Substance Abuse transitioned former Turning Tide patients to clinics in Waterville and Bangor, but the three- to four-hour daily round trip made it impossible for some, including Emery's son. According to MOSA director Guy Cousins, roughly 15 to 20 percent of Turning Tide patients ceased treatment altogether.
Second, that the town of Warren went apeshit when a local businessman whose son badly needed local methadone treatment hooked up with CRC and purchased a site for them to rent:
When the plans did go public, Warren residents were in an uproar. They felt deceived and worried about the possible impacts of a high-volume methadone clinic, slated to serve 300 patients a day, on their rural community with a population under 5000.

Under pressure from local residents, the town quickly voided the sale of the building and enacted a six-month moratorium on methadone clinics. This knee-jerk reaction was Warren's attempt to buy time.

"This is a small town," says 20-year Warren resident Terry Walsh. "The selectmen are all volunteers. We have a garbage collector, a plumber, just regular people from the town, and I don't think they were any match for the lawyers and so on from CRC who came in. They were overwhelmed by the whole thing."
The article does not attempt to adjudicate between these intense reactions and the acknowledged need for a clinic.

Leonard's reporting further reveals that CRC's would-be local partner, the entrepreneur with the addicted son, was viciously vilified, and also that, faced with the fierce opposition, "CRC proposed a new clinic location: a portion of the warehouse on Route 1 that houses most of Emery's businesses, from used-car sales to portable toilets."

The sole grounds for alleging that CRC and parent Bain acted as an oppressive outside force is the fact that CRC filed a lawsuit on behalf of the proposed clinic's prospective patients under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit was in response to the town's swift voiding of the sale of the initial site building and imposition of a six month moratorium on the development of any methadone clinic. In mediation, however, "CRC agreed to hold off on the lawsuit if Warren would consider approving a different location for a clinic." 

The threat of going forward with the suit did hang over Warren's deliberations over the second proposed site.  But it's not at all clear to me that such a threat constitutes bullying.  How else is a company or other service provider to push through knee-jerk NIMBYism?  I am not judging the legitimacy of Warren residents' objection to this clinic, but the Phoenix story provides no grounds for assuming that their case against the clinic is particularly strong.The story did not address the quality of the services CRC delivers.   

It looks to me as if CRC and Bain should be well positioned to quite vigorously defend CRC's actions in Warren if  Democrats try to make hay out of this one.

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