Imagine there’s a business seeking to expand its capacity by two-thirds in a city that has pitched itself as a prime, welcoming location for business growth. Because of whom this business serves, however, the city’s elected officials suggest alternatives. Perhaps you could try that other city down the road, they say. There’s really cheap office space there, lots of potential customers.

In the end, the city’s officials decline to award the expanding business the permission it needs to grow. They say it’s because the business hasn’t met the licensing criteria defined in the city ordinance, even though there’s strong evidence to the contrary.

That, in a nutshell, describes the Bangor City Council’s treatment of Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center. In a 7-2 vote, the council on Monday night rejected an application from the Hogan Road methadone clinic to expand so it could serve 500 patients, up from its current capacity of 300.

What other established health care business would receive such treatment from the city of Bangor?

At a time when the need for additional drug treatment capacity in Maine couldn’t be more obvious, seven Bangor city councilors on Monday turned their backs on hundreds, potentially thousands, of people in eastern Maine with addictions who need medication-assisted treatment, are ready for it and can’t access it. Their lives have been overtaken by the disease of addiction. Their brains and behavior are controlled by the craving for another high. They resort to desperate — and dangerous — measures to secure that next fix.

Many caught in the trap of addiction are at a point at which they want to get well. And methadone offers a reprieve from the cravings and the chance to start getting better.

The council had before it an easy opportunity to help a population for whom help has been hard to come by. The council had the chance to make it a little less likely that someone with an addiction would call a clinic seeking help and be told, “No, our capacity is maxed out.”

All the Bangor City Council had to do was say yes.

Two councilors, Gibran Graham and Sarah Nichols, did, and they deserve praise for defying the popular position to do the right thing.

Other councilors, meanwhile, made the vote about more than the matter that was actually before them. The job before councilors was to judge whether Penobscot Metro had met the conditions for expansion: that the physical space was adequate, that the clinic had sufficient staffing, that it could demonstrate the need for expanded services, that it was in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Instead, the debate over whether to approve Penobscot Metro’s expansion application became one about the efficacy of methadone treatment — as if members of the Bangor City Council are better suited to judge its effectiveness than four decades’ worth of scientific research — and the need for treatment capacity north of Bangor.

Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center and its parent company, Colonial Management Group, are considering their options right now. The next step might very well involve litigation against the city of Bangor — legal action that councilors would have invited.

If that’s what it takes to allow a methadone clinic to expand at a time when its services are sorely needed, then we encourage Colonial Management Group to exercise that option.

But the expansion of medication-assisted treatment capacity at a time when the need for it is so clear shouldn’t require a court’s intervention.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...