Bradford discusses new drug treatment center

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(Host) Bradford residents told state officials and operators of a new substance abuse treatment center Tuesday night that they’re concerned about the effect the center may have on their community.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The state estimates there are 3,000 Vermonters who are addicted to heroin. There are currently 100 treatment slots. Human Services Secretary Charles Smith told the approximately 80 residents at Tuesday night’s meeting that an in-patient substance abuse center in Vermont is long overdue.

(Smith) “Vermont has a very significant substance abuse problem. We’ve had this problem for some time, but to be perfectly honest about it, Vermont’s turned its back on this problem for many years.”

(Zind) State officials say the new treatment center will be good for Vermont – and good for Bradford. They told community members the center will mean jobs and tax revenue for the town. They said the facility will treat mainly women and adolescents who present a minimal risk to the community.

Officials announced earlier this month that they had chosen Bradford as the site for the new center. It will be operated by a private, for-profit corporation. The center will eventually provide treatment for up to eighty individuals. Currently the state pays for treatment for about three hundred Vermonters at a center in New York State.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, community members voiced a number of concerns – particularly about the effect a substance abuse treatment facility might have on local police and emergency services. They asked for written assurances that the state would help pay for any increase in the costs of those services. Smith said he would be willing to discuss a written agreement with the town.

Hilary Coons of Bradford acknowledged the importance of establishing a treatment center but said she was concerned that people might have no where to go once they left treatment. She worried that many might stay in Bradford and eventually return to drugs.

(Coons) “And then we have a situation where someone needs to raise money to support this very devastating addiction. I think that we ought to consider the social impact of that in Bradford. We already have to lock our cars in downtown Bradford. How much can we bear of the social problems of Vermont?”

(Zind) Vermont Health Commissioner Paul Jarris says when properly treated, most addicts don’t relapse. And Jarris says there’s a myth that drug addicts are destitute or homeless people with no where to go.

(Jarris) “This is a treatment facility for most Vermonters – who could be any of our kids or siblings or co-workers in this room, who have a place to go back to.”

(Zind) The new center will be located in the Brookside Nursing Home in Bradford, which is being purchased by a Chittenden County developer. Brookside’s residents will be moved to other homes over the next few months. State officials said at Tuesday’s meeting that they will work with the community to establish another nursing home or similar facility in the area.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Bradford.

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