Addiction clinic fights back against county ordinance

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2018

A lawsuit has been filed against the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors by a law firm representing Crossroads Center of Southern Mississippi, a facility that states it provides medicated addiction recovery treatment.

According to previous coverage, Crossroads Center of Southern Mississippi was in the process of opening a treatment facility to help resolve the ongoing opioid crisis until the Board of Supervisors enforced an ordinance established in 1999.

The facility was being constructed by Robert Thigpen off of Sycamore Road where a previous business called Swim Hutch used to operate, which is in Board President Sandy Kane Smith’s district.

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“Pearl River County’s adoption and enforcement of the ordinance, both facially and as applied, were and are clearly arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, illegal, and discriminatory, and have no relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit further states that the county’s decision to enforce the ordinance “was and is based on generalized negative stereotypes, attitudes, prejudices, and fears unsubstantiated by any legitimate, rational basis.”

Smith said the Board will present the ordinance to the court and he still opposes the construction of the clinic. He said defending the Board’s decision will be costly to the taxpayers.

“I was hoping it was not going to come to this… (it’s) going to cost the county a lot of money to defend it,” Smith said.

He said the Board’s objection to Crossroads operating in the county was primarily due to the county’s rural nature. If the facility would have been proposed in another area, it would have been seen in a different light, he said.

Smith said the company filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act but he believes that having a drug problem is not a disability.

“The ordinance was put in place to protect the citizens, so it’s a shame that it’s not going to do anything for them,” he said.

“I don’t know why people do ordinances or anything if you got loopholes around court systems to bypass them,” Smith said.

Vice President Hudson Holliday said the Board will move forward by establishing the legality of their decision.

Holliday did express concern that now that opioid addiction has been classified as a health issue, the county ordinance could be considered invalid.

While Hudson said the county will defend its decision, if it appears as though the county will come out on the losing end, he would rather not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit, he said.

Thigpen, told the Item, through his attorney, that he has no comment about the suit at this time.