Since the Keene methadone treatment center opened its doors in 2006, local police officials have received numerous complaints stemming from suspicious and illegal activity stemming from the business. According to the Keene Sentinel, “Clinic staff call Swanzey police regularly for complaints including unwanted subjects, people sleeping in their cars waiting for the clinic to open, assaults and illegal drug activity taking place in the parking lot, according to Sgt. Joel Sampson. He said Swanzey police also get calls from people reporting patients with suspended driver’s licenses and hit-and-runs in the parking lot. ‘We get a lot of complaints … from people who travel to work every day,’ Sampson said, adding police have gotten reports of clients swerving out of the clinic’s parking lot, nearly causing accidents. N.H. State Police Sgt. Shawn Skahan witnessed a few accidents involving methadone clinic patients, including one that involved Goshen woman Shawna Palmer, who was traveling home from the Concord Metro clinic when she crashed her car on July 12, 2007.”
As the investigative Keene Sentinel series reports, the methadone treatment center has been a frequent source for police activity and a source of frustration due to the clinic’s confidentiality policy. According to the Sentinel, “Local police said they’ve also encountered problems with the clinic when it comes to confidentiality policies. The clinic follows the rules of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); staff can’t disclose a client’s identity unless that client says it’s okay.” After several incidents involving police during which the clinic was uncooperative, law enforcement officials checked with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. DEA spokesman Anthony Pettigrew said that he doesn’t believe HIPAA regulations apply to a criminal investigation, adding that they only apply when law enforcement officers are trying to obtain a patient’s medical records. “I know every jurisdiction varies, as do state requirements, but if an officer has probable cause to arrest someone, they can arrest them,” Pettigrew said.
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