Mobile methadone may expand to more Kingdom towns

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(Host) The Vermont Department of Health is reaching out to Northeast Kingdom communities in an effort to bring a mobile methadone clinic to more locations. The effort comes after officials in Newport and St. Johnsbury told the department they don’t want to be the only communities to host the clinic.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The Health Department couldn’t find a community willing to host a fixed methadone clinic to provide treatments to an estimated 600 heroin addicts in the Northeast Kingdom. That’s because communities were concerned that there might be a stigma attached to hosting a heroin treatment center and feared that a clinic might attract undesirable people from out of town.

So earlier this year the Health Department contracted with a San Francisco company to operate two mobile clinics. The hope was that communities would be more amenable to a mobile facility. The initial idea was that one of the units would serve Newport and the other would be stationed in St. Johnsbury. But town officials told the Health Department they didn’t want to be the only communities to host the mobile clinics. Since then the department has been meeting with officials in smaller communities.

(Cimaglio) “We had meetings with Concord, Hardwick and Danville. And Hardwick actually voted to support the project.”

(Zind) Barbara Cimaglio is director of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs. She says while Hardwick selectmen voted to take part in the mobile methadone program, the department is still waiting to hear from officials in Concord and Danville.

Michael Walsh chairs the Danville Select Board. Walsh says townspeople are divided about the idea of hosting the clinic. He says in a small town like Danville, it’s unlikely local residents needing treatment would use the clinic for fear of being recognized by their neighbors. Community members are concerned that people from out of the area who are using the clinic might commit crimes.

Walsh said he had similar concerns when he first heard about the proposal. But after meeting with the Health Department, he says he saw advantages to the program.

(Walsh) “The people that get into this program have to be very serious about beating their addiction and it just seemed to me that maybe they wouldn’t have to break into people’s houses to get money to buy their drugs. They could actually hold a job and keep it.”

(Zind) Walsh says the Danville Select Board may hold a public meeting before making a decision on the mobile clinic.

Barbara Cimaglio says the Health Department will continue to talk to towns about hosting the clinic. She said there’s no set date yet for the mobile facilities to begin operations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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