Another group wants to open Duluth methadone treatment clinicWith a second methadone treatment center for opiate addicts in Duluth about two months from opening, according to its director, another group hopes to open one as well.
With a second methadone treatment center for opiate addicts in Duluth about two months from opening, according to its director, another group hopes to open one as well.
And it’s a clinic St. Louis County leaders might support.
The Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, perhaps best known for running the county’s only detoxification center for alcohol and drug abuse, is proposing what it calls a Medication Assisted Treatment Program, where methadone would be one of several drugs given to assist opiate addicts with their addiction.
While methadone is itself an opioid-based drug and is controversial because it is highly addictive and potentially lethal, it has successfully helped addicts withdraw from drugs like heroin and narcotic pain relievers if its use is heavily monitored and provided in combination with frequent counseling.
The Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, which also provides outpatient chemical dependency treatment and helped open the San Marco Apartments, would seek to provide properly administered methadone treatment in addition to other medication-assisted treatments, said center CEO Gary Olson.
Olson said the Northland is in the midst of an opiate addiction epidemic, primarily because of overuse of prescription narcotic drugs, and medication-assisted therapies are crucial in treatment.
“We could reduce unnecessary deaths, ER visits, criminal activity and unnecessary hospitalizations,” Olson said.
Clinic proposal opposed
Chad Braafladt, the director of the other proposed methadone clinic, the Superior Treatment Center, has stated similar treatment goals for his clinic.
But Braafladt has encountered heavy resistance from city and county leaders in his efforts. The Duluth City Council voted 6-2 Monday night against his clinic proposal, though it has no power to block it.
The St. Louis County Board voted unanimously last week to direct Ann Busche, the county’s director of public health and human services, to send a letter to the state expressing opposition to Braafladt’s planned clinic.
In that letter, dated April 5, Busche expressed frustration that the state already issued Braafladt’s clinic a “statement of need,” a requirement for any new clinic to get a license to open in the state.
The county had already denied Braafladt’s request for a statement of need, which states that there is enough demand for methadone to support another clinic. But now that the state has issued the statement, neither the county nor city has any recourse to prevent Braafladt from opening his clinic.
“At no time did (the state) notify, solicit, receive or discuss needs assessment information with St. Louis County, much less the impact, cultural considerations and local efforts to address related issues,” Busche wrote.
Second clinic needed, state says
The Minnesota Department of Human Services wrote a memo to Busche in late March saying it issued the statement because the only methadone provider in Duluth, the Lake Superior Treatment Center, has reported operating at 97 percent capacity, has a waiting list of 250 people, and has not “taken admissions for some time.”
The Lake Superior Treatment Center was fined $400 last month for numerous state violations, including providing false information to investigators and failing to provide adequate counseling to clients and monitoring of its methadone use. The clinic was cited for many of those same violations in 2009.
The director of the Lake Superior Treatment Center did not return a phone call from the News Tribune seeking comment. The clinic is run by Florida-based Colonial Management Group, which has four other clinics in Minnesota.
In her letter, Busche also wrote about her concern that the Lake Superior Treatment Center does “not have adequate tapering” from methadone use.
“If the majority of their clients admitted to their program since 2000 remains as an active client today because they continue to provide methadone on an ongoing basis, then of course they will have capacity issues.”
Push for Local control
Busche told the News Tribune that if the county finds there is a need to open another methadone clinic in Duluth, it would support a request-for-proposal process for vendors to provide information on what that treatment provider might look like.
That also happens to be the option Olson at the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment would like to see.
“The county could choose the next methadone clinic,” he said. “We want some local control over who the next vendor is.”
The Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, a nonprofit established in 1961, already works closely with the county to provide detox services as well as other as chemical dependency treatments.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the board,” Busche said when asked if the county would be more supportive of the CADT’s efforts to open a methadone clinic, “but on behalf of (St. Louis County Human Services) yes, we would be more open to CADT because of our historical positive relationship.”
That might be a moot point. Braafladt said regardless of what the county and the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment choose to do, he’s still moving ahead with his clinic, which he said will go somewhere in the western part of the city and expects will be done in about two months.
“We have met all requirements (of state law)” to open a clinic, Braafladt said. “Whether the county supports us or not … I think it’s in the city’s best interests to have another facility.”
If Braafaldt is able to open his clinic, Olson said the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment would abandon their efforts.
“There’s no need for three methadone clinics in the city,” he said.