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January 2, 2013

The pain is gone for some Jeffersonville residents

Clark County Wellness Center closes

JEFFERSONVILLE — There is no notice on the door and no sign announcing its closure, but a controversial pain management clinic in Jeffersonville has closed.

Wednesday marked the last day the Clark County Wellness Center could be in operation without prompting a lawsuit from the city or incurring fines. The clinics doors were locked and the shutters were closed Wednesday afternoon.

In the wake of the pain management moving into the Franklin Commons neighborhood, the city put a moratorium on allowing any such new clinics to locate in Jeffersonville while they drafted a law that would limit where a pain management clinic could locate. Clark County Wellness was not subject to the new restrictions and was allowed to operate in its current location under a grandfather clause.

However, with the suspension of the license of Dr. Lea Marlow, who works at the Clark County Wellness Center, the city said the clinic no longer constituted a conforming use and must cease operations within 15 days of the notice. The 15-day notice ended Wednesday.

“The Jeffersonville zoning ordinance permits legal nonconforming uses to continue operating unimpeded provided that they remain otherwise lawful,” according to a notice sent to the clinic from Planning and Zoning Director Shane Corbin. “Any unlawful activity on the property of a legal nonconforming use removes the property’s grandfather status. The city of Jeffersonville considers this an unlawful action and the continued use of the property located [at] 526 E. Maple St. as a pain management clinic is now in violation of the Jeffersonville zoning ordinance.”  

According to a release from the Indiana Attorney General’s office, Marlow’s “prescribing practices are well outside the boundaries of what is considered safe and appropriate.” The AG’s office said Marlow prescribed more than 8,000 prescriptions for 3,489 patients — with more than 95 percent receiving oxycodone. Virtually all Marlow’s patients received identical treatment in the form of oxycodone and diazepam prescriptions and she did not accept payment from private insurance companies or government entitlement programs, but instead Clark County Wellness operated as a “cash-only” business.

Marlow previously worked for Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management, owned by Will Singleton. In July, Kentucky’s new regulations regarding pain clinics went into effect requiring any pain clinic be owned and operated by a board certified, licensed physician. According to the petition, the clinic moved to Jeffersonville and opened as the Clark County Wellness Center in Indiana. Marlow began prescribing there in August.

The pain clinic remained operational after Marlow’s license was suspended, operating with another doctor.

Derek Spence, president of the Franklin Commons Neighborhood Association, said there hasn’t been any activity from patients at the clinic for about a week, but added last week was a holiday week. He said that neighbors saw employees moving office furniture out of the building Dec. 27.

Spence was hesitant to say whether or not the pain management clinic has shut down for good.

“If they are shut down we are thrilled to death,” he said. “It’s been a long ordeal for the neighbors.”

When asked what the neighborhood residents would like to see move into the building, Spence cited some of the former occupants like an accountant or possibly an attorney’s office with its proximity to the county courthouse.

“Something that’s not going generate traffic or push illicit medicines,” he said.

Jeffersonville City Attorney Les Merkley said as far as the city knows, the clinic is closed.

“If they are open, or reopen, we believe they are in noncompliance with the zoning ordinance,” he said.

Merkley added that if operations begin again at the site the first step would be to file a suit in county court to enforce Jeffersonville’s zoning ordinance. He added the suit would be filed against the property owner because the property owner is ultimately responsible for compliance with the city’s zoning laws.

Williams Properties LLC is listed as the property owner for the building.

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5-year-old Nicholas Garrison is handed a lemon drop, while 6-year-old Thomas and 4-year-old Walker Sturgeon, try theirs at Schimpff's Confectionery Friday afternoon in Jeffersonville.

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