Massachusetts methadone clinic turns away Vermonters

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(Host) A Massachusetts-based methadone program used by recovering heroin addicts in Vermont says it has no more room. The situation has created problems for Vermonters seeking treatment because the state currently has no methadone programs.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) According to the National Institutes for Health, methadone is the medication most frequently used to treat heroin addiction. Often, recovering addicts go to a clinic every day to get the methadone they need.

Since the state currently has no methadone programs, Vermonters have been getting outpatient treatment at a substance abuse center in Greenfield, Massachusetts. But Vermont officials say the center is now putting people on a waiting list because it has no more openings.

Tom Perras is Director of the Health Department’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. Perras says some Vermonters currently going to the Greenfield clinic drive several hours each way, every day.

(Perras) “You don’t have a life. It’s hard to hold a job and you run your car into the ground. We’ve had many people call and write to us that it’s been extremely difficult for them.”

(Zind) Perras says now that the Greenfield program is full, Vermonters needing methadone treatment will have to travel even further to programs in New Hampshire and Maine. The Massachusetts clinic is the only one where the state offered financial help to qualified Vermonters seeking treatment.

Alice Diorio of the Vermont Harm Reduction Coalition in Brattleboro says her organization has been trying to help addicts who want treatment but don’t have the money to pay for it. She says now that the Greenfield program is full, there’s nowhere for them to go.

(Diorio) “We try to help them stay as safe as they can and keep them alive and keep them thinking about making positive behavior changes. Our waiting rooms are our morgues. Our jails and our morgues. That’s where the waiting rooms are.”

(Zind) Tom Perras says recovering addicts will be able to get more help when the state’s first methadone program opens in Burlington this fall. It’s expected there will soon be a waiting list there as well. Perras says the state is trying to find the money to fund additional clinics.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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