Rutland delegation to push methadone clinic
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | March 09,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff FILE Photo
This is the proposed site for a methadone clinic at the Howe Center in Rutland City.
Rutland’s legislators hope to speed up the process of opening a methadone clinic in the city.
Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland City, said the city’s delegation along with Rep. Tom Terenzini, R-Rutland Town, will meet early next week with Health Commissioner Harry Chen.
“We want to know exactly where this methadone clinic stands and get it done,” he said. “We want to see it and put our collective weight on the situation, know where it is, make sure the money is in place and get this methadone clinic built in six months.”
Russell said he began talking to his fellow legislators following comments from city Police Chief James Baker at a community meeting Wednesday. Baker has repeatedly said the clinic is badly needed in the city’s fight against drug addiction.
“I am appalled that we still don’t have a methadone clinic here,” Baker said Wednesday. “It’s a proven fact that methadone helps people manage their lives. ... We can’t make this a New York City problem. The reason traffickers are here is because of the level of the addiction problem.”
Rep. Peter Fagan, R-Rutland City, said he keeps hearing the clinic will be open no later than Oct. 1, but he hopes to see it up and running sooner. Fagan said he plans to come away from the meeting with specific ways the Legislature can accelerate the process.
“Obviously, we’re talking money and money is exceptionally tight in this budget,” he said.
Chen, a doctor and a former Rutland County lawmaker, said Friday that his department remains committed to opening the clinic. The project cleared an important hurdle recently, he said, when the Green Mountain Care Board determined the department did not need to apply for a certificate of public need for the clinic.
“I think things are moving along as well as could be expected,” he said. “Now we’re in the process of negotiating with (Rutland Regional Medical Center) for a contract. At this point, as far as I can tell, it’s moving along. Everyone seems committed to making it happen. ... This is a high priority of the governor, of mine and the hospital to get this done.”
Russell said that, if nothing else, he and his fellow legislators can maintain pressure on the administration.
“You can believe I’ll be a thorn in the side of the governor’s office,” he said. “We expect this to be built between now and the fall. ... We’re very serious about getting this job done because it’s one of the pieces to the puzzle of getting this crime and drug situation under control.”