State cites Duluth methadone clinic for violationsDuluth’s only methadone clinic has fallen under tight scrutiny by the Minnesota Department of Human Services after the clinic was found to have 26 violations after an investigation fueled by complaints about the chemical-dependency treatment center.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth’s only methadone clinic has fallen under tight scrutiny by the Minnesota Department of Human Services after the clinic was found to have 26 violations after an investigation fueled by complaints about the chemical-dependency treatment center.
The clinic was cited for providing false information to investigators, inadequate oversight of patient medications, and sloppy paperwork on patients and staff.
As of Monday, the Lake Superior Treatment Center’s license will be on a “conditional” status from the state for three years. The clinic also was fined $400.
Most of the violations require immediate fixes as outlined in a report issued this week by the DHS. The clinic must fulfill nine conditions in order to be allowed to operate under a full license.
The clinic is run by Florida-based Colonial Management Group, which has four other clinics in the state.
Methadone is a narcotic pain reliever that is used to help patients withdraw from addictive opiate drugs such as heroine and oxycodone. The clinics are designed to dispense the drug and monitor patients through their anticipated withdrawal from it.
The report did not indicate where the complaints about the clinic came from, but focused on inspections made in the past nine months.
Sixteen of the 26 violations are repeat offenses from a state inspection done in 2009.
The license punishment is “based on the nature, chronicity and severity of the licensing violations,” the DHS wrote in a letter to Colonial and the clinic.
A staffer at the clinic misled investigators about patient caseloads for counselors when asked by investigators, the report said. The state said that an inspection on Oct. 3, 2011, showed 400 patients being treated by five counselors — or 80 for each one — 30 more than the state threshold of 50.
The false report led to a $200 fine and the caseload violation led to the other $200 fine.
According to the DHS report, counselors said they were being asked to do duties that the state said a paraprofessional should be doing, such as monitoring hallways, observing drug tests or answering phones.
The state warned the clinic that counselors needed more time to do the required case paperwork that was lacking in the inspections.
Patients take the drug at the clinic for a period of time and then can be allowed to medicate themselves, taking bottles of the drug home.
Phone and e-mail messages left Thursday night by the News Tribune requesting comment from Colonial representatives were not returned.
The order from the state, totaling 18 pages of documentation, shows a staff that is overworked and skipping on important case-monitoring paperwork and sometimes unaware of what the state rules are regarding patient care.
Highlights of the 24 other violations include, according to the state:
The requirements under the “conditional” license include giving notice to current patients and referring agencies of the current state of the clinic’s license.
The state also is requiring quarterly training of staff on rule compliance and self-monitoring.
The program director also is required to act full time in administration and not have a caseload. The clinic also must provide a weekly report on the number of cases counselors are handling.
The state also could make an unannounced visit to check on compliance.
Minnesota has 14 centers that provide methadone treatment. Colonial runs three clinics outside of the Twin Cities area, in Duluth, Rochester and St. Cloud. It has two clinics in the metro area, in Roseville and Burnsville. It has 57 clinics across the United States.
The violations announced this week come with the news that an application has been submitted for a second clinic in Duluth.
The Superior Treatment Center applied with the state to put a clinic in West Duluth. It has no relation to the Colonial center.
Lake Superior Treatment Center opened in 2000 amid concerns that addicts from the region would congregate in Duluth. Scott Lyons, the Duluth police chief at the time, said he still has reservations about the effectiveness of the clinics and the magnet they become for addicts.
Earlier this month, current Police Chief Gordon Ramsay had a lukewarm attitude toward another clinic in the city.
“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 told the News Tribune.
Chad Braafladt, director of the Superior Treatment Center, told the News Tribune earlier this month, before the Lake Superior clinic’s violations were announced, that his methadone clinic would have accountability over its operations because it would be locally run.
Braafladt said that should his application for a clinic be approved this year, it would provide work for 18 people.