Douglas says heroin addicts need in state treatment

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas wants heroin addicts to receive treatment in Vermont and not be sent out of state. Douglas Thursday announced that the state will seek bids for a new, 80-bed drug treatment center. He says the center is a key element of his program to fight drug addiction.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Critics of the governor’s anti-drug program had charged it was long on enforcement but light on treatment efforts. At his weekly news conference, Douglas unveiled plans for an 80-bed treatment center to be located within Vermont. Currently, many addicts are sent to a facility in New York State to kick their drug addiction.

Douglas says sending addicts out-of-state is expensive, and takes them away from their families during a crucial time in their recovery. According to Douglas, the center could free up space in state prisons by giving the courts another option in drug cases.

(Douglas) “It’s an opportunity to re-deploy our current resources without any additional expenditure of funds. This facility will provide a much need rehabilitation option for courts who find that in-state treatment is the appropriate course. Offenders, especially women, are being increasingly incarcerated for addiction and treatment issues. This uses expensive corrections bed space – $30,000 a year – that would be used for more serious offenders.”

(Dillon) The state now sends about 275 Vermonters every year for out-of-state treatment. Human Services Secretary Charlie Smith says the cost is around $250 per day at the New York treatment center.

Smith says the state will now seek bids from Vermont health care providers to run the facility. One likely bidder is the Brattleboro Retreat. The Retreat currently runs treatment programs, but has encountered financial problems and administrators say it may close. Smith says he doesn’t know if the new program will help the Retreat climb out of its financial hole:

(Smith) “Whether it’s the answer or not depends of whether they succeed as the successful bidder. But I would hope the Brattleboro Retreat will be a bidder on this. I believe they will be.”

(Dillon) Smith says the idea for a Vermont-based center is not new, but it’s languished in the planning stages. He says when the new administration came into office, Governor Douglas pushed hard for an in-state treatment option.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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