Duluth city councilors say adding new methadone clinic harmfulLess than a week after St. Louis County commissioners unanimously voted to oppose plans for Duluth’s second methadone clinic, the Duluth City Council may follow suit.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Less than a week after St. Louis County commissioners unanimously voted to oppose plans for Duluth’s second methadone clinic, the Duluth City Council may follow suit.
Tonight, Councilors Jay Fosle, Garry Krause and Patrick Boyle will ask their colleagues to go on record against the would-be clinic. They’ve all co-sponsored a resolution expressing the council’s “strong opposition to the proposed opening of a second methadone treatment center within the city of Duluth.”
The Superior Treatment Center has applied for a license to open its first methadone clinic in the city. The facility would be called Ridgewood Recovery Inc. If approved, the center would administer methadone, which is a narcotic itself, to ease withdrawal symptoms as it works to overcome clients’ addictions to other destructive opiates, such as heroin and oxycodone.
Chad Braafladt, director of the Superior Treatment Center, contends Duluth needs another methadone clinic, as the only other provider in town has 250 people on a waiting list. Braafladt said his site search for a new facility has focused on properties on public bus routes between 17th Avenue West and 60th Avenue West.
Fosle contends a clinic in that area would be located too close to residential neighborhoods.
“I’m here to represent the citizens of my district, and most people don’t want something like that in their neighborhood,” he said.
Braafladt suggested that if Duluth fails to help local addicts recover, other unfortunate and expensive consequences of denial could result.
“I don’t know why there is this degree of fear in the community,” he said, stressing the need to treat addicts. “These people are out there already buying from drug dealers and causing problems.”
Fosle questioned how many people on the waiting list for methadone are truly from Duluth and wondered aloud if the city might become more of a magnet for addicts with the addition of another methadone clinic.
Councilor Boyle, who is a nurse practitioner, said methadone clinics have shown ineffective results.
“Once people go into these programs, the idea is to get them off the medication altogether. But often it’s not working,” he said, explaining that many addicts at methadone clinics are unable to wean themselves off drugs.
Braafladt contends Ridgewood Recovery can raise the bar by coupling methadone treatments with intensive group therapy sessions many other facilities fail to provide.
Despite having a similar name, the Superior Treatment Center is not affiliated with Duluth’s only current methadone clinic, the Lake Superior Treatment Center. That facility was recently cited for 26 violations, including what was deemed its inadequate oversight of methadone dispensing.
Braafladt said his business would be locally owned and operated, leading to greater accountability.
Fosle questioned the whole approach of using methadone to fight addiction.
“It’s using an illegal drug treat another illegal drug, and I don’t want to condone it,” he said.
Councilor Sharla Gardner questioned Fosle’s characterization of methadone and asked City Attorney Gunnar Johnson for clarification.
Johnson explained that methadone is a controlled substance that can be legally possessed and distributed only when accompanied by a proper medical prescription.
Ultimately, the decision whether to license a new methadone clinic in Duluth will be left to state authorities.
Council President Dan Hartman explained: “This resolution would make a statement. We don’t make the decision, but we would be voicing our opinion as a body.”