Proposed Duluth methadone clinic raises concernsLaw enforcement ‘not turning cartwheels’ over proposal to open a second drug addiction treatment center in Duluth.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth will have a second clinic offering methadone as a treatment for drug addiction, if a license is granted.
Chad Braafladt, director of the Superior Treatment Center, said he has had talks with building owners between 17th Avenue West and 60th Avenue West about a possible location for a clinic. The center applied with the Minnesota Department of Human Services in December for a license to provide methadone to treat addicts.
Methadone is a narcotic pain reliever that is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in patients who were addicted to other opiate drugs, such as heroin and oxycodone, and in treatment programs to help addicts stop taking those drugs, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The Superior Treatment Center currently leases space on the second floor of what used to be known as the Gilbert Building, 209 W. First St., from Citon Computer Corp. But Citon has said it plans eventually to use the entire building, and Braafladt said he doesn’t envision that space for methadone treatment. There also are no plans for methadone treatment at the center’s location in Superior, at 1507 Tower Ave., No. 307.
The Superior Treatment Center isn’t related to the Lake Superior Treatment Center, 14 E. Central Entrance, Building B, which has been offering methadone as treatment since December 2000.
Minnesota currently has 14 methadone treatment centers, said David Brown, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services.
Their popularity grew rapidly during the first decade of the 2000s, from 43 admissions in 2000 to 1,001 in 2009, according to Department of Human Services data. But the percentage of patients who were discharged from the programs for successful completion never rose beyond 22 percent and bottomed out at 3 percent in 2009.
When the Lake Superior Treatment Center opened, it did so despite the concerns of then-police Chief Scott Lyons. At the time, he questioned whether methadone was an appropriate treatment, and suggested it would draw drug addicts from other communities.
His opinion hasn’t changed.
“I’m not turning any more cartwheels about it now than I was then,” said Lyons, who now is coordinator of law enforcement training at Fond du Lac Community College.
Calls seeking comments from the Lake Superior Treatment Center weren’t returned on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Current police Chief Gordon Ramsay said he was awaiting more information regarding a second treatment center. “A lot of it depends on how well these clinics are run, how well they’re managed, how well they work at getting people off the drug,” Ramsay said. “I really think that the location is also important.”
Ramsay doesn’t want to see a methadone treatment center in the downtown area, in any of the city’s business districts or in a residential area, he said. The Lake Superior Treatment Center’s location, almost hidden behind the Northland Broadcasting building, is “not bad,” Ramsay said.
“We get occasional complaints from neighboring businesses that there are drug exchanges,” Ramsay said. “We also know it draws from a long distance away. It brings people to town that have nowhere else to get it.”
The best location would be another town, Ramsay said. “We have one already, so it certainly would be nice to move them to the other areas that don’t have them.”
Braafladt, who founded the Duluth company CP Internet in 1994 and took over the Superior Treatment Center four years ago, said his company would have greater accountability because it is locally run. The Lake Superior Treatment Center is owned by the Florida-based Colonial Management Group.
Braafladt said he hadn’t met with Ramsay, but that the clinic would abide by all laws and regulations and would seek a good working relationship with police.
“If there’s ever a concern, we will deal with it,” he said.
Currently, the Superior Treatment Center provides suboxone as a treatment for opiate addiction, Braafladt said. But that drug is much more expensive than methadone. The point of either drug is that it helps addicts cope with the pain of withdrawal, he said.
“It keeps people from going to drug dealers, and it keeps them out of emergency rooms,” he said.
The Superior Treatment Center combines dispensing the drug with outpatient group therapy sessions, Braafladt said. Dosages are gradually reduced over a period of from two to nine months, depending on individual circumstances.
Braafladt declined to say how many people work for the Superior Treatment Center, but he said 18 more people would be hired if the methadone license were approved. He said he hoped that would happen within the next month. Brown said the licensing process typically takes six to eight months.