• Methadone clinic opening a month away
    By Brent Curtis
    staff writer | September 28,2013
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    A long-awaited methadone clinic in Rutland will open a little later than hoped.

    Three months after state and local medical officials announced plans to open the West Ridge Center for Addiction Recovery by Oct. 1, a Rutland Regional Medical Center official overseeing the project said Friday the opening has been pushed back to Nov. 6.

    Nine staffers, including doctors, nurses, a program director and substance abuse clinicians, have been hired and trained for their roles at the center where patients addicted to opiate-based drugs will receive methadone and buprenorphine treatment, according to Dr. Jeff McKee, director of behavioral health services at the hospital.

    Renovations to the building where the center will operate at the Howe Center are also nearly complete, McKee said.

    But testing and licensing of the building’s security system has pushed the anticipated Oct. 1 opening date back. The October opening was predicted in June when RRMC signed a contract with the state to run the multifaceted addiction treatment center which will serve patients from Rutland and Bennington counties who presently make daily trips to West Lebanon, N.H., to receive methadone treatment.

    McKee said extra time was being taken to test the security system before federal inspectors with the Drug Enforcement Administration review security protocols at the facility as part of a federal licensing requirement.

    “We decided to be safe and conduct some extra testing,” McKee said.

    The setback represents another delay in the clinic’s opening, which local and state officials had originally hoped would happen in October 2012.

    That original estimate fell apart when Rutland Mental Health Services failed to reach an agreement with the Vermont Department of Health due to financial concerns.

    The impasse set the project back a year and drew remarks from frustrated city officials who cited a desperate need to treat opiate addiction in the Rutland area.

    But the much shorter delay due to security double-checking didn’t raise any concerns among state or local officials.

    “If it was stalled because there was no progress that would be a concern, but as I understand it they have their staff ready to go and I’m happy to hear they’re close to opening,” said Rutland Police Chief James Baker.

    Baker has said the center would both fill a hole in treatment coverage for addicts in need and help to reduce demand for opiates in an illegal drug market that has attracted a large number of out-of-state dealers.

    Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner of drug and alcohol abuse programs for the Department of Health, said the delay wouldn’t cause any problems with state funding of the project either.

    When the facility opens in November, it will initially serve about 50 patients who are presently making daily trips to New Hampshire to receive methadone, McKee said.

    He said he expects that number to grow gradually during the course of the clinic’s first year of operation. By the end of 2014, he said the facility, which will be open seven days a week, 365 days a year, is expected to serve 400 people.

    Hospital officials said they worked with the Howard Center in Burlington to develop the new treatment center model and program. To operate the facility, the hospital will eventually hire more than 20 staffers, including therapists, substance abuse counselors, nurses, case managers, security officers and administrative personnel.

    brent.curtis

    @rutlandherald.com
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