(Host) Health Commissioner Doctor Paul Jarris says a decision by the Legislature not to extend Vermont’s methadone law means it will be easier to locate new clinics around the state. Jarris says expanding the availability of methadone is an important part of Governor Jim Douglas’s anti-drug program.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In the waning hours of the Legislative session, House and Senate negotiators wrestled with a provision of the capital bill that reauthorized Vermont’s methadone law. The proposal also allowed non-hospital institutions to sponsor methadone clinics – something that’s prohibited under current state law.
When lawmakers adjourned, the methadone provision was removed from the capital bill and some members of the House who oppose an expansion of methadone services thought they had won a big victory. But that’s not how the issue is playing out.
Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris says Vermont’s current methadone law will expire at the end of June. Once that happens, Jarris says federal rules governing methadone will take effect and he says those regulations, while strict, offer much more flexibility than Vermont’s previous law concerning the siting of new clinics:
(Jarris) “But what it means is that the state cannot now apply stricter regulations. So for example in the past it had to be a hospital-based program – that’s gone. It had to be in a multiple-use facility – that’s gone. The legislation in the Legislature this year would have permitted the commissioner of health to apply stricter guidelines than the federal government. Well since that didn’t pass, now we can only apply the federal guidelines.”
(Kinzel) Jarris says adhering to the federal rules after June 26 means that it will be easier to locate new methadone clinics around the state. That’s something he says the Douglas administration strongly supports:
(Jarris) “The governor’s D.E.T.E.R. plan calls for another methadone treatment program to open in the state. We are working currently now on a mobile unit in the St. Johnsbury to Newport area. So again, consistent with the governor’s message, this won’t be forced on a town. We’re working with towns to say, we have a need here – let’s take care of folks.”
(Kinzel) Jarris says he hopes the mobile methadone unit for the northeast Kingdom will be up and operating by the end of the summer.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.