Elorza Administration, Zurier Defend Suboxone Clinic on Providence’s East Side

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


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City Councilman Sam Zurier (left) along with city and state officials were at Hope High School Monday night to discuss the new Suboxone clinic going in on the East Side.

Elorza administration officials and Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier defended the contentious Suboxone clinic planned on the East Side of Providence near Thayer Street, at a neighborhood meeting at Hope High School on Monday night. 

The facility, which was first made known in December 2016 with a large sign announcing “Suboxone Available Spring 2017,” has drawn opposition from neighbors based on the most recent zoning variance for the property, along with concerns about both the potential number of patients - and parking - in the primarily residential area, and whether or not the drug would be available on the premises. 

“Unfortunately we’re trapped to become keystone cops to see if someone is leaving with a box of pills. So as a taxpayer every time I feed the ‘beast’  - you people up there - I have to enforce the property against the beast,” said meeting attendee Gary Goldberg, referencing the city officials on hand Monday night. “This is about what happens with a property when you buy it and then what happens to it — it’s not about who gets what drug or how many patients.”

Latest in Public Forums

Following a January meeting of the College Hill Neighborhood Association in which neighbors expressed their concerns about a clinic being located in a densely populate residential neighborhood, Zurier hosted the forum Monday night to bring city and state officials to answer questions. 

City of Providence Director of Partnerships Peter Asen, Director of Inspections and Standards Jeff Lykins, Assistant City Solicitor Megan DiSanto, and Rhode Island Department of Behavior Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals’ Kevin Savage all noted that the building’s new owner Ricki Dion — a convicted mob drug dealer — is legally allowed to have a Suboxone clinic at the historic East Side mansion. 

“There was an article in which the new owners…didn’t sound like Boy Scouts,” said Zurier, when Dion’s criminal history came up.  According to Zurier, Dion and his lawyer declined his invitation to come address the public - and people's concerns - on Monday. 

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The historic Tillinghast mansion - where the clinic is going.

More than two dozen residents — including those who expressed support for the clinic, citing a need in the addiction recovery community for more support services — attended the forum, with roughly the first thirty minutes centered around the zoning for the most recent use of the property having been assigned over fifty years ago, and whether the stipulation of two doctors offices in the language meant two doctors - or multiple. 

City officials were unable to answer a number of questions. 

“This is use by right of variance. Abandonment doesn’t apply. ‘Owner occupied’ doesn’t apply. The number of doctors isn’t addressed at the ordinance, the variance is for two doctors offices,” said Lykins. 

One of the concerns that came up repeatedly on Monday was whether or not drugs would be on hand at the prescribing clinic, whether as samples or being administered to patients in immediate need. 

Zurier asked for a show of hands asking for “how many people…believe it is important to clarify that this isn’t operating as a pharmacy.”  

After a show of hands, Zurier said he would inquire about having a letter sent — from the city to Dion — asserting that under current use, no drugs could be on the premises.

About the Battle

As GoLocal reported in December 2016

The elegant yellow brick Tillinghast Mansion on the corner of Lloyd and Thayer Street is being transformed into a Suboxone clinic by one of Rhode Island’s most notorious criminals.

Richard Dion, who manages the corporation Oxford Investment which purchased the East Side mansion where the drug treatment facility is being advertised, is a former Providence Police officer, has deep ties to organized crime, and in 1999 was convicted by federal prosecutors for cocaine dealing, extortion, and racketeering. 

As GoLocal first reported on Monday, “One of Providence’s most acclaimed historic mansions is being transformed into a Suboxone clinic..the mansion was purchased for $1.6 million from Deborah Zaki. Zaki is the widow of Hani Zaki, who was murdered in 2001 and the crime has never been solved.

He was killed in his home on Prospect Street, just two blocks up the street from the Lloyd property. Leading Rhode Island law enforcement officials tell GoLocal that Dion has close ties to Eddie Lato — an identified Capo in the New England crime family.

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