Opponents of a proposed methadone clinic at Camden's South Jersey Port think they have the perfect alternative site for the facility: exactly where it is now.

Parkside Recovery currently dispenses methadone, which helps reduce heroin addicts' cravings, from its storefront on Broadway in the city's Lanning Square section.

Plans call for the clinic to be relocated across town to make way for a new medical school and health campus to be run by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in conjunction with Cooper University Hospital.

Activists in the Waterfront South neighborhood, where the port is located, say the methadone clinic would attract criminal activity and ruin the continued revitalization of their area.

They call the plan - which awaits final approval from the political appointees on the board of directors of the South Jersey Port Corp. - illogical.

"It doesn't make any sense whatsoever to move it out because a hospital is coming there," said resident Andrea Ferich, who has sued the city over the proposal to move the clinic to Morgan Boulevard and Broadway.

"I just find it against the Hippocratic Oath to move a clinic to a port," Ferich said.

Cooper University Hospital has been a driving force behind establishing the new medical campus, which would act as an extension of its campus across the street. A representative for UMDNJ said the school's board had not yet approved construction.

John Sheridan Jr., Cooper's chief executive officer, said that dispensing medicine as a part of outpatient care was not within the mission of the hospital's expanding acute-care facility. Cooper has a history of helping Camden, one of the poorest cities in the country, in other ways, he said.

He also noted that only two of the state's 30 methadone clinics were in hospitals.

Still, opponents of the move have seized on the idea of having Cooper accept responsibility for the clinic. And the medical director of an award-winning methadone clinic at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, in Baltimore, believes they may have a point.

Recovering drug addicts are a "pretty acute population" because many neglect their medical care, according to Kenneth Stoller, medical director of addiction-treatment services at Bayview.

Earlier this month, Stoller said, a recovering addict complained of chest pains during a group-therapy session. A physician's assistant did an electrocardiogram, found an irregularity, and then "she hopped on a shuttle with him and took the two-minute ride to the emergency room."

Being based in the larger comprehensive facility has long-term benefits, too.

Many addicts receive routine medical care from emergency rooms, Stoller said. The Bayview clinic's goals are to help them seek treatment outside the ER and "obtain various sources of support, like insurance."

In a hospital, he said, "we can walk our patients to the clinics to help them get an appointment."

Stoller said he remained in "constant contact" with his patients' doctors through "e-mail, telephone conversations, conversations in private in the cafeteria, faculty meetings."

Since substance abuse and mental illness are often intertwined, it is also helpful, he said, that the psychiatric unit is just four floors downstairs.

The Bayview program is different from the one run in Camden, according to Stoller's description of Bayview and accounts from patients in Camden.

Bayview's Addiction Treatment Services has strict rules that prohibit loitering by its clients, who receive oral doses of methadone.

Camden's Parkside Recovery has a constant crowd of people loitering outside. The clinic's parent organization, Northwestern Human Services, of Lafayette Hill, did not return a call for this article.

Darryl, a Parkside client who didn't want his last name used, said over the summer that the clinic was so important for him that he hung out there all day, sweeping the waiting room and fetching lunch for the staff.

But he also spends time outside, he said, where dealers approach trying to sell Xanax, an antianxiety medicine that triggers a high when coupled with methadone.

Residents of Lanning Square have complained to city officials about the criminal element they say the clinic attracts. Its forced removal was a major selling point to win their support for a neighborhood-redevelopment plan that City Council passed in July.

Under the plan, now facing a handful of lawsuits, UMDNJ would open a 500,000-square-foot medical campus with medical-related stores off Broadway and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Housing for med students would be nearby.

A number of businesses, including the Parkside clinic, would be forced to relocate because state law gives a school powers of acquisition. The South Jersey Port Corp. must still vote to approve the move, but it has already hired a firm to evaluate the cost of constructing a new clinic.

Cooper would work closely with UMDNJ's new school, said Sheridan, the hospital executive. He said Cooper was trying to be the "catalyst" for redevelopment in the neighborhood and the city while also providing quality medical care for city residents.

"We have a suburban strategy in that we're trying to attract paying patients [to Cooper] for the high-end services," he said. "We need to do that in order to serve the other mission, the uninsured in Camden."

He said the hospital never considered bringing the methadone clinic into its operation because it did not fit into the hospital's role as an acute-care facility.

He said he believed clinics needed "to be in a pretty remote location."

It is also easier to police the port location than Broadway, he said.

The nearest homes to the proposed clinic at Waterfront South are one-third of a mile away, he said.

"For anybody to say this is in their backyard is absurd. It's just not true," he said.

In December, Cooper - the city's biggest employer - is expected to hold the grand opening of a $222 million patient pavilion.

The growth of the hospital benefits city residents, Cooper says.

The hospital is "trying to make ourselves better, and simultaneously the neighborhood better, and simultaneously the city better," said Arthur Winkler, Cooper's senior vice president.

"[If] there's something wrong with that, I don't see it," he said.

In Philadelphia, both Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania run methadone clinics, but not on their main campuses.

Girard Medical Center, at Eighth Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia, has a hospital-based methadone program in a building that includes physical therapy, speech therapy and respiratory departments.

It's always hard to find a neighborhood that will accept a methadone clinic, said Michael Churchill, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

Churchill won a case last year in federal appeals court against the city of Reading, which tried to prevent a methadone clinic from moving into a facility where mental-health services previously had been provided.

"It's particularly unfortunate that people who need this care are being banished," he said. "These are the people who most need health care, and it's indeed working."