St. Louis County Board critical of second methadone clinicPlans for a second methadone treatment center for drug addicts in Duluth have raised the ire of St. Louis County commissioners.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Plans for a second methadone treatment center for drug addicts in Duluth have raised the ire of St. Louis County commissioners.
The County Board voted 6-0 Tuesday to direct county staff to send a letter to state officials expressing opposition to how the project has advanced without support from the county. But it’s not clear what if any power the county has to stop the clinic.
“Personally, as the county commissioner who represents the district where they want to put this facility, I don’t want to see it happen at all. My feeling is that, if you build it, they will come,” said Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, who represents western Duluth.
The “they” Dahlberg speaks of are drug addicts who may not be seeking treatment but may come to the area seeking drugs illegally.
“The law enforcement people you talk to say this just attracts the wrong kind of people,” Dahlberg said.
Commissioners ordered the letter to the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services to express their opposition “to the significant process concerns regarding the application for licensure of the Superior Treatment Center’s Ridgewood Recovery Center that has been submitted without accompanying comprehensive community-based needs assessment or support and involvement of St. Louis County or the City of Duluth.”
The board’s action Tuesday wasn’t the first negative response to the proposed clinic from the county. On Feb. 23, Ann Busche, the county’s director of health and human services, sent a letter to Chad Braafladt, director of the Superior Treatment Center, the company proposing the new clinic, saying that the county had concerns over a second methadone facility and that the county will “not be providing a letter of need to the state in support of your proposal.”
State officials have responded, noting in a letter to county staff that the existing clinic in Duluth operates at 97 percent capacity with 250 people on its waiting list. State officials added that the county does not have veto power over the state’s decision to license a new methadone center.
Dahlberg said recent newspaper accounts of the existing methadone center in Duluth, the Lake Superior Treatment Center (not related to the group proposing the new Superior Treatment Center) being cited for 26 violations, including inadequate oversight of drug dispensing, only raised the level of concern among commissioners.
Commissioner Steve O’Neil of Duluth said he supports methadone treatment under supervision for the people who need it to get well but that there are too many problems with the city’s current center to jump into a second facility.
“What we need is a more treatment-based facility, not just one that dispenses more methadone,” O’Neil said. “We don’t feel like there’s been any kind of assessment for the community on whether we need this and how they are going to do it. We don’t want to move forward with another facility that seems very similar to what we have now.”
But Braafladt told the News Tribune on Tuesday that his locally owned center would be much more accountable than the existing facility with management based in Florida. He also said the need for more treatment was great.
“The problems the existing facility is having should be all the more reason to support what we’re trying to do with a local company with a great track record,” he said. “I’ve followed all the state rules for applying for this and they’ve told me that it’s acceptable.”
O’Neil said that while the state ultimately determines licensing for such clinics, that state officials will pay attention to the county’s request for input. Braafladt said he expects to receive the license from the state as soon as a facility is approved by building inspectors, possibly within a couple of months.
Methadone is a narcotic pain reliever that also is 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.