Hilleast Commissioner Urges Residents to Fight the Andromeda Clinic

Meet With Commissioner Jayaraman and Councilmember Allen July 15

Andromeda Transcultural Health. Photo: Christine Rushton

Hilleast ANC Commissioner Chander Jayaraman (6B08) wants neighbors to join him Friday in asking for Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen’s help in fighting two health clinics opening around the intersection of 15th Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Independence Avenue SE. The meeting is Friday, July 15 at 8 a.m. at the Pretzel Bakery (257 15th St. SE).

In January 2016, Jayaraman and Commissioner Denise Krepp (6B10) started fighting Andromeda Transcultural Health’s plans to put in a clinic on the corner of South Carolina Avenue and 15th Street SE.

With the Community Action Group, with outpatient services at 1238 Pennsylvania Ave SE, also set to open up clinic operations at their renovated site near the intersection of Independence Avenue and 15th Street SE, the neighbors worry two health clinics will overwhelm the primarily residential community. Add to that a newly opened 7-Eleven store between the two clinics and residents fear an increase of loitering around the sites.

“There are schools nearby: Eastern High School, a public charter, Payne Elementary,” Krepp said. “If we have people coming here for anything from alcohol to drugs to something else, have we thought about the balance of their needs with the children, the needs of the community?”

She added: “Why two mental health clinics in a residential area? One is enough.”

Fighting a Faulty Clinic Certification Process

Since January, Krepp and Jayaraman have organized several community meetings and have tried to keep open communications between the community, the DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), 7-Eleven, Andromeda and CAG.

The problem is how clinic certificates from DBH and certificates of occupancy from the DC Department of Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) are issued, she said.

In April, Jayaraman filed an appeal of the DCRA certificate issued to Andromeda. DCRA listed the clinic in the C2-4 zoned site for “General Office Use,” but Jayaraman believes any outpatient substance abuse facilities should fall under “Medical Facility.” The commissioner referred to a Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) order in 1997 that clarified that day treatment program activities at the Psychological Development Association did not fall under general office use. But despite this decision, DCRA has continued to issue occupancy certificates to clinics under general office status.

“When you’re proposing to recruit and get individuals who are potential court ordered referrals for counseling, that’s a very different use than a daycare center,” Jayaraman said. “We really think it’s actually clinical, medical--that’s what it should be categorized as.”

Also DBH requires new clinics take on all the costs of the building and any renovations for a new site before the business can apply for a certificate to operate, he explained. This leaves the ANC out of the process of deciding an appropriate site.

Working With CAG

CAG has made significant efforts to reach out to and work with the community for years, Krepp said. So they expected the changes at 15th and Independence. But what she doesn’t understand is why DBH claims CAG won’t be operating outpatient services and therefore won't be applying for a certificate.

In a letter to the Hill Rag, CAG owner Janice Gordon said it’s in the long term plans to apply for the certificate to move their outpatient services from the Pennsylvania Avenue site to the Independence Ave site. She said her team will offer rooms for community meetings, Sunday worship and shows with the Anacostia Playhouse. Their patients will come for substance abuse and other educational sessions.

“No medications are dispensed and no medical staff is present,” Janice Gordon said. “Unfortunately, the word ‘clinical’ tends to conjure up images of medical activity and/or medicine, neither of which is part of CAG’s outpatient modality.”

DBH spokesperson Phyllis Jones said representatives of DBH have been in close contact with the ANC commissioners, despite Krepp’s claims that she has struggled to get a response from the department. Jones explained part of DBH’s process in evaluating new clinics.

“We’ve met with them,” Jones said. “There’s no requirement that the community approve the certification of a health clinic.”

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