State revoking Duluth methadone clinic’s licenseThe order follows years of problems at the Lake Superior Treatment Center, as detailed in a News Tribune investigation first published on Sept. 16.
The state of Minnesota says it will revoke the license for Duluth’s methadone clinic after what it said were numerous chronic and serious violations of state and federal laws, according to an order issued Monday.
The order follows years of problems at the Lake Superior Treatment Center, as detailed in a News Tribune investigation first published on Sept. 16.
It’s the first time the state has revoked a methadone clinic’s license, according to the Department of Human Services.
Since 2007, no other methadone clinic in the state has been cited for more violations of state and federal regulations, records show.
Among those violations: failing to check that patients were properly using take-home doses of methadone — high-level doses of the drug that are popular on the street; providing false information to investigators; and overworking counselors by giving them case loads of 80 clients — 30 more than federal law allows.
The clinic had 419 patients as of this week, according to the DHS.
The revocation is effective at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8. The clinic can appeal the decision before then.
If it does, state law allows for the clinic to remain open and continue serving patients until the issue can be decided by an administrative law judge, according to DHS Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry.
Barry said if the clinic stays open during the appeal process, it will be subject to unscheduled and random site visits by DHS inspectors. She said if additional serious problem are found, DHS can then move to immediately close the facility.
Barry said she did not know if an appeal had been filed as of Monday afternoon.
The clinic’s license already was on conditional status because of violations found in a March inspection. Many of those were repeats of violations found in 2009 inspections.
According to Monday’s order, inspectors reviewed the clinic on Aug. 2 and 3 and again found numerous repeat violations, including having excessive counselor caseloads, not properly controlling take-home doses, not doing background checks on counselors before hiring them, failing to document treatment and procedures, and having inadequate procedures for reporting possible maltreatment of children and vulnerable adults.
Inspectors also found instances where clients were given increased dosages of methadone without any reason or physicians’ order for the increase.
“Many of the 56 violations are violations of law or rule affecting the health, safety or rights of individuals served by the program,” the report said.
The clinic is owned by the Florida-based Colonial Management Group. Administrators there could not be immediately reached for comment and have previously told the News Tribune that the company does not speak to the media.
However, a corporate medical director for Colonial, Dr. Tom Payte, who works out of Texas, did speak with the News Tribune. Payte said he didn’t know about the revocation until he was contacted by the newspaper.
He said the revocation could have disastrous consequences for the clinic’s patients and the community.
The patients “will die, overdose or go to jail,” Payte said. “Some will just resume their illicit habits.
“This is like suicide,” he said. “It’s a cowardly way out.”
The News Tribune began running its investigative series on methadone treatment on Sept. 16. The newspaper reported that the drug has killed nearly 400 Minnesotans in the past 10 years, including 39 in St. Louis and Carlton counties; that few patients complete methadone treatment; that the drug has been easily diverted and sold on area streets; and the cost to taxpayers for the treatment since 2005 has been about $43 million.