Towns Weigh in on Mobile Methadone Plan

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(Host) Officials in two Northeast Kingdom communities are cautiously supportive of a mobile methadone clinic proposed by the state. But as VPR’s Steve Zind reports, they still have concerns.

(Zind) Three weeks from now the state will decide who will operate Vermont’s first mobile methadone clinic. Two applicants are currently under consideration by the Department of Health.

The clinic would make daily stops in St. Johnsbury and Newport to dispense methadone as a treatment for heroin addition. Patients would also be required to get counseling. The clinic will have the capacity to serve two hundred people daily, which would triple the number of people currently receiving methadone treatment in Vermont. The state’s only other treatment facility is in Burlington.

Vermont officials decided to explore the idea of a mobile clinic after failing to find a community to host a fixed clinic.

(Barbara Cimaglio) “The mobile unit is more acceptable than having a fixed location.”

(Zind) Barbara Cimaglio of the Vermont Department of Health says St. Johnsbury and Newport have been receptive to a mobile clinic. In the past, local officials have worried that a fixed treatment center would draw addicts from outside their communities. And while a mobile methadone clinic would be more acceptable than a fixed facility:

(Dale Urie) “They both have the same negative connotations to them.”

(zind) Dale Urie is a St. Johnsbury selectman. He also chairs the community’s health advisory board.

(Urie) “There’s a better feeling with a mobile methadone clinic because it’s not here overnight. But it will be here for 365 days.”

(Zind) Urie says the Select Board has asked the state to guarantee that only residents of the area will receive treatment at the mobile clinic.

Cimaglio says while preference will be given to treating people in the community, the idea of limiting treatment to those people will have to be discussed with the operator of the new clinic.

Newport Selectman Elwood Guyette says Health Department officials have also met with his board, but Guyette says he still has questions about a mobile clinic.

(Guyette) “I think I’m in favor of it but I would still need more information before I would vote in the affirmative.”

(Zind) Guyette says the department needs to do a better job of informing the public about a mobile clinic. He says he supports providing treatment to addicts, but understands concerns that people might move to the area to be closer to a clinic.

St. Johnsbury Selectmen Dale Urie says the solution is to locate clinics in every county. That way one or two communities don’t have to provide treatment for the entire state.

Barbara Cimaglio says the state is interested in expanding the number of mobile treatment clinics.

(Cimaglio) “We are looking to the future where we could expand in the southern part of the state as well as and in the central part of the state.”

(Zind) Cimaglio says the Northeast Kingdom mobile methadone clinic should be running by early fall.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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