State struggles to open second methadone clinic

Print More

(Host) State officials have earmarked funds to open a new methadone clinic to treat heroin addiction. Now they’re hoping someone will come forward with a proposal for a new clinic. So far there haven’t been any takers.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Finding the money for a new methadone clinic was the easy part. Finding someone who wants to open a clinic may be tougher. Over the last few months, state officials have had discussions with a number of parties but none has submitted a proposal to open a clinic.

Vermont’s first methadone treatment facility opened in Burlington 10 months ago. It’s designed to provide counseling and methadone treatment for 100 people. Those slots have been filled and another 100 people are on the waiting list.

Doctor Paul Jarris heads the Vermont Department of Health. He says opening a second methadone clinic is a high priority – but it’s going to take awhile.

(Jarris) “Perhaps I and others may have been a little na ve about how complex this process was, to have this get up and running in Vermont.”

(Zind) Jarris says opening a new clinic up will take the cooperation of health care providers, state officials and the community where the clinic will be located. That last element, community cooperation, could be difficult. Several years ago when there was talk of a methadone clinic in Rutland, residents organized to oppose it. When a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users opened in Saint Johnsbury last year, there was a community outcry.

Jarris says, ideally, the new clinic would be located near enough to Saint Johnsbury and the Northeast Kingdom to help addicts there. Currently the closest available methadone treatment is in Massachusetts.

(Jarris) “There are many Vermonters who, because they’re unable to enroll in treatment now, are left with a terrible disorder. Vermont as a whole is left with a situation where we have individuals, because they can’t get treatment, are committing crimes and doing other things that would not happen were they in treatment.”

(Zind) Under Vermont law, the clinics have to be located at an existing hospital or health care facility. A spokeswoman for the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in Saint Johnsbury says that hospital is not considering opening a clinic.

Jarris won’t say whom the state is talking with, but at least one interested party is a company that runs for-profit methadone clinics in other states.

(Jarris) “There has been interest expressed, but believe me we will do a very thorough due diligence on anybody that comes to Vermont.”

(Zind) Companies that specialize in running methadone clinics for profit currently operate in a number of New England states.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

Comments are closed.