The heavily-debated methadone clinic renovations are underway.

HowardCenter Clinic Renovations Underway: School Board Explores Options

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Thursday April 25, 2013

At Wednesday night’s School Board meeting, Attorney Pietro Lynn gave an update on the current status of the HowardCenter’s Permit to open a Methadone Clinic at 364 Dorset Street. The school board learned on Friday, April 12, that HowardCenter had begun the interior renovation work  at the Dorset Street location. The action was a result of the Environmental Court’s decision to deny the School Board’s appeal to stay.

The School Board had filed a motion to prohibit construction from occurring at 364 Dorset Street until a decision on the permit was rendered. While the judge in the case acknowledged the arguments made by the school board, he decided that there would not be any irreparable harm at this time by allowing the interior renovations to begin. Lynn explained that the School Board now has three options. They could ask the Court to reconsider their decision, ask the Vermont Supreme Court to take up the matter, or they could let the decision stand and see where the proceedings go next. Lynn will be submitting all of the legal documents and issues to the Court that had been presented during the public hearings held before the SB Design Review Board (DRB).

Lynn explained that since no stay has been granted, the HowardCenter could begin to serve clients at the facility if their construction is complete before a decision is rendered by the Environmental Court. Lynn also said, however, if the HowardCenter continues with construction and their permit is denied, they will never be able to recapture the revenue they invested.

Board member Elizabeth Fitzgerald inquired as to the projected number of patients to be served since she had recently read that there are 450 existing patients and 720 on a waitlist. This points to a significant increase in the number of individuals who would be treated compared to the figure that was quoted in the fall. She wanted to know if this shift had any relevance to their case. Lynn affirmed. Since this case is now before the Environmental Court, the Board has discovery rights to verify information that could potentially be inconsistent. They will be able to obtain this information under oath from the HowardCenter. The greater the population of clients, the greater the risk to the students at the Middle School, Lynn said.

Martin LaLonde said that he continues to take issue with the fact that the District uses the HowardCenter for so many services. He would like to explore if there are other options. Are the services completely necessary and if so, are there other providers, he wondered. In one respect they are helping our students, but in another, they are putting them in danger, LaLonde said.

Diane Bugbee urged caution in what LaLonde was suggesting. “The HowardCenter is the designated provider of these services for Chittenden County. We don’t want students who rely on these services to get caught in the middle of this.”

David Young agreed that they would not want to have any disruption to students in the services they receive.

This item will be discussed further at the next Board meeting with a potential decision on their next steps. Young said any decision on what action they take will come out of executive session.