Governor considers opening a second Methadone clinic

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he wants to facilitate the opening of a second Methadone clinic in the state.

He says he’s open to the possibility that the clinic could be operated by a non-hospital organization.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When the General Assembly gave its approval to legislation several years ago that authorized the use of Methadone by heroin addicts in the state, former Governor Howard Dean insisted that the program be run under the authority of one of Vermont’s hospitals.

Since then one clinic has opened in Vermont – in Burlington. The clinic is operating at full capacity and state officials acknowledge there’s a desperate need for additional clinics.

The problem is that no other hospitals are coming forward to sponsor a clinic.

Because of this situation several key lawmakers want to change the existing law to allow other health organizations to sponsor a clinic.

The governor says he’s certainly open to this change:

(Douglas) My goal is finding help for the people who are addicted to heroin and other dangerous substances. It’s growing in our state; the numbers are climbing. It is insidious, it’s pervasive, it’s classless. We have people leaving Vermont for treatment because there aren’t adequate options here so I don’t want to close any doors.

(Kinzel) But even if the law is changed, Douglas says it’s still important to allow a community to have the final say on whether or not to locate a Methadone clinic in their town:

(Douglas) A group of physicians are talking about a treatment option in southern Vermont that might not be affiliated with a hospital. Obviously we want to be sure that any treatment option is safe not only for the patients but for the community as well…I’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to force a Methadone facility on any community that doesn’t want to host one, but in terms of what institution might sponsor it, we’re certainly open to suggestions.

(Kinzel) Douglas also says the process to locate a new 80-bed residential treatment center is going slower than he had hoped.

The Administration says four proposals are being considered – two involve Vermont organizations in Brattleboro and Rutland – while the other two are proposals from out of state groups who want to operate a treatment center in the state.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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