State pursues new methods for distributing methadone

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(Host) Speaking Thursday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris said the state will soon allow limited take-home methadone treatment at a Burlington clinic. The clinic, which is Vermont’s only methadone treatment center, now requires people in treatment for heroin addiction to come in every day to receive methadone.

Jarris says the allowing take-home will mean more of Vermont’s estimated 2,000-3,000 addicts will receive treatment. Jarris says people taking home methadone will be carefully supervised.

Officials have been unsuccessful in finding a place to put a second methadone clinic. Jarris says many towns are reluctant to host a clinic because they’re afraid people needing treatment might move to their community. Jarris says the state is now interested in using a mobile treatment center unit:

(Jarris) “There are several states that do this, particularly in rural areas. We would drive this up to an existing treatment program in a community, where people with addiction and substance problems are already being treated. So no one’s coming to their community.”

(Host) Jarris says Governor Jim Douglas will support proposed legislation doing away with some restrictions on operating methadone clinics.

One caller to the program – who identified himself as a recovering addict – said he travels out of state every day to receive treatment. He said Vermont is moving too slowly in providing methadone to those who need it.

(Caller) “I drive approximately around the earth at the equator every three months – 100,000 miles a year. It’s basically ruining my life, even though the treatment works very well. I just can’t afford to do this forever. And I’m concerned that methadone is being treated here as an experiment and not something that’s been a proven medication for 30 years.”

(Host) Jarris says the state is also working to make another addiction treatment available to more Vermonters. Buprenophine was approved a year ago by the federal government. Unlike methadone, it can be prescribed by physicians.

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