Some restrictions may be lifted on methadone clinics

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(Host) The state may consider doing away with a key restriction in the law that regulates methadone clinics in Vermont. The change could make it easier to open a second facility to treat people for opiate addiction.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Vermont’s first methadone clinic began operating just over a year ago in Burlington. The clinic has been at full capacity since shortly after it opened. State officials say there’s no question another treatment facility is needed- and the money has been budgeted.

But progress in finding a location and someone to operate the clinic has been slow. Under Vermont law any methadone clinic has to be run by a hospital and so far no hospital has committed to opening a new facility.

(Leddy) “If hospitals aren’t willing to step forward, or if communities aren’t willing to support their hospitals, then we have a real problem.”

(Zind) Chittenden County Senator Jim Leddy chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

(Leddy) “It is important, I think, perhaps, even necessary that we remove that condition in the law that requires the sponsorship to be a hospital and only a hospital; to allow other willing providers who are qualified, capable and who meet the requirement to also be sponsors of these types of programs.”

(Zind) Leddy says then Governor Howard Dean refused to support the methadone bill without the hospital requirement. Now the state may be willing to support doing away with the provision.

(Jarris) “That is something we’re reexamining and looking at.”

(Zind) Vermont Health Commissioner Doctor Paul Jarris says eliminating the requirement would permit other organizations to run methadone programs. In many states these are private for-profit businesses.

(Jarris) “As we look at the models around the country, I’m not aware of any other states that have a restriction like that, so the conversation then has to be, is there something different about Vermont where we would need to have this hospital-based in Vermont where other highly successful treatment programs do not require that.”

(Zind) Jarris says no decision has been made yet about whether or not to recommend eliminating the hospital restriction. Even if it doesn’t require hospital affiliation, a major the hurdle to establishing a methadone program is community support. Jarris says there are ongoing efforts to talk to leaders in communities that might host a clinic, but so far none has stepped forward.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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