Methadone Clinic considered for Dorset Street

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Thursday June 28, 2012

Just four months ago, the HowardCenter’s Chittenden Clinic in Burlington, the state’s largest methadone clinic, was awarded a three-year accreditation from CARF International. (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). There is apparently a great need for such services given high levels of opiate addition in Vermont. This need might be alleviated by a new methadone clinic proposed for 364 Dorset Street just down the street from SB High School and Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School.

The HowardCenter, a non-profit agency in Burlington since the 1870s, offers mental health, developmental disabilities, substance abuse and child and family treatment services. The agency currently offers two methadone services: the Chittenden Clinic (in collaboration with UVM and FAHC) and the medication-assisted treatment service at Twin Oaks in SB. For over 10 years, the HowardCenter has been top-in-class for helping Vermonters overcome their opiod addictions, but with clientele growth shooting from 40-400 in that time span, the current space just is not enough.

“Our space at the University Health Care is no longer adequate to accommodate the medical and counseling staff needed to meet the needs of the clients we serve,” Bob Bick, director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at the HowardCenter, said. “It is our firm belief, consistent with honoring the civil rights of the patients we serve as well as respecting their commonality with any individual with medical needs, that the rules, expectations, regulatory and community oversight for situating the program are no different than those that apply to any office-based medical practice.”

The Howard Center has its eyes set on 364 Dorset Street which is approved for medical use. According to Paul Conner, director of Planning and Zoning, there has not been an actual project or proposal set in place yet, but the SB Planning And Zoning Department will remain in communication with the landlord. If there is no change of use, the HowardCenter may not need to take further action other than to get a signed permit. If there is a change of use, “we would start that process,” Conner said.

South Burlington Realty is working with the HowardCenter to make this a reality.

 “South Burlington Realty, on behalf of Dorset Street Real Estate Holdings, LLC, the property owner, is in the business of meeting long-term facility needs for the Vermont business community,” John Jaeger of South Burlington Realty wrote in an e-mail this past week. “We feel it is important to do that in a manner which respects the needs of our existing community of tenants and neighbors and which is in full compliance with local, state and federal regulations relating to land uses and to the treatment of those with disabilities.”

South Burlington Realty has reached out to SBSD Superintendent David Young. At the School Board meeting on June 20, Young shared this information with his colleagues, and he said he will express his concern regarding the location being so close to school premises.

The HowardCenter also expressed interest for open, honest communication.

“We also recognize that it is not uncommon for individuals and institutions to have questions about the causes, impacts, and treatments available for those suffering with addiction,” Bick said. “Subsequent to making a definitive decision about location, we would be pleased to meet with interested parties to address those questions.”

Neither City Manager Sandy Miller nor Assistant City Manager Bob Rusten had any comment regarding the clinic.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent