Methadone clinic appeals license revocation, won’t close SundayThe Lake Superior Treatment Center, Northeastern Minnesota’s only methadone clinic for the treatment of drug addicts, has appealed a decision by the state of Minnesota to revoke its license.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The Lake Superior Treatment Center, Northeastern Minnesota’s only methadone clinic for the treatment of drug addicts, has appealed a decision by the state of Minnesota to revoke its license.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services confirmed that officials from the Duluth center filed a formal appeal Wednesday of the order that would close the treatment center at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Under agency rules, the clinic can remain open until the issue is decided by an administrative law judge.
State officials have said if the clinic stays open during the appeal process, it will be subject to unscheduled and random site visits by state inspectors. If additional serious problem are found, the department can move immediately to close the center.
The treatment center, at 14 E. Central Entrance, had 419 patients the week before it received the notice of revocation.
“I understand an appeal has been filed and our general policy is to allow continuation of services until first level of appeal is complete,’’ Anne Barry, deputy state Human Services commissioner, said Wednesday. “We also reserve the right to reconsider that policy if circumstances change and there is an imminent threat to health or safety.”
The license revocation was announced Sept. 21 after a News Tribune series outlined multiple problems stemming from methadone treatment statewide and locally.
Since 2007, the Lake Superior Treatment Center has been cited for more violations of state and federal regulations than any other methadone clinic in the state, the News Tribune found.
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.
It is the first time the state has moved to revoke a methadone clinic’s license, department officials have said, so it’s not clear how long the issue might play out.
In the letter of appeal, attorneys for the center said the state’s allegations and sanctions are “unsupported by substantial evidence; arbitrary and capricious; in violation of constitutional provisions; in excess of statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; made upon unlawful procedure; and affected by other errors of law.”
Before Sept. 21, the clinic’s license was on conditional status because of violations found in a March inspection. Many of those were repeats of violations found in 2009 inspections.
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 in which clients were given increased dosages of methadone without any reason or physicians’ order for the increase.
The clinic is owned by the Florida-based Colonial Management Group. David Aafedt, the Twin Cities attorney representing the center’s owners, did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call seeking comment on the appeal.