Pubdate: Tue, 09 Jan 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Contact:  491 Main St., PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329
Author: Jeff Tuttle and Diana Graettinger
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)


BANGOR - State substance abuse officials on Monday announced that they will 
go forward with plans to open a methadone clinic in Washington County.

Kimberly Johnson, director of the State Office of Substance Abuse, said 
that the state has found a Machias treatment provider to apply for a 
federal grant that would be used to provide the treatment in the state's 
easternmost county.

"I will be looking to open a methadone program up there, something small to 
start with," Johnson said, stressing that the clinic's opening was largely 
dependent on acceptance of the federal grant. "I think there's a need, and 
we're going to see what we can do."

The Down East clinic will come in addition to a clinic under development in 

Johnson said the treatment provider, whom she would not identify, was not 
interested in running the clinic, but she did hope to offer the treatment 
in Machias in about a year.

"But I've been told I should take what [location] I can get" added Johnson, 
who met with community members and treatment providers in both Machias and 
Calais on Monday evening.

In Calais, Johnson met with the newly formed group, Neighbors against Drug 
Abuse. Formed last year, the group's mandate is to fight the drug-abuse 
problem on their own turf by developing an outpatient treatment facility 
Down East.

Scott Withers, NADA president, said that the group decided to focus on an 
outpatient facility because it was "cost-effective and effective."

During the meeting, Johnson encouraged the group to apply for federal and 
state grants. She said a Jan. 8 Time magazine article had thrust Calais 
into the national spotlight. In that article, the author addressed the 
illegal use of OxyContin, a drug regularly used for the treatment of cancer 
pain. In Washington County, OxyContin has become the drug of choice among 
drug addicts, that according to the Time article has "stirred up a blizzard 
of a crime wave throughout the towns of Calais and Bangor."

Former Republican State Rep. Harry Bailey also addressed the need for more 
law enforcement to attack the problem Down East. Currently the Maine Drug 
Enforcement Agency has two agents for all of Aroostook and Washington 
counties. The group agreed to support a bill sponsored by Sen. Jill 
Goldthwait, an independent from Bar Harbor, seeking 20 additional MDEA 
positions to be funded for five years. If approved, the effort would bring 
10 new agents in Bangor, five in Hancock and five in Washington counties.

Probation Officer Bill Love said he believed the drug problem had deep 
roots in Washington County, and he said that multiple measures would have 
to be used to attack what he called an established drug culture. He said he 
has seen clients of his leave Washington County and be gone for months at a 
treatment center only to return and immediately return to their old habits. 
He said there needed to be a strong education component to change attitudes.

Johnson agreed that education had played a major role in changing attitudes 
about drinking and smoking, and some of those same measures would be needed 
to change attitudes about drug use and abuse.

Johnson also said she planned to pursue a second, but nonprofit, methadone 
clinic in the Portland area. The state has two privately run methadone 
clinics, one in Winslow and one in South Portland.

A recent proposal to place a clinic in Bangor was met with often heated 
resistance, with opponents calling the clinic a magnet for drug addicts and 
drug-related crime.

Methadone is a synthetic narcotic used to treat those addicted to heroin 
and other opiates such as the prescription painkiller OxyContin, the abuse 
of which has plagued eastern Maine in the past several months.

News of plans for a Washington County clinic was well received in the city, 
where a panel that studied the problem for five months had recommended that 
the state also offer the treatment in that region. Like the Bangor area, 
Washington County has seen an alarming rise in opiate addiction in the past 
two years, according to state substance abuse officials.

"Just the fact that [the state] has listened to the panel and is looking to 
provide a comprehensive service is encouraging," said Bangor City Councilor 
Nichi Farnham, who, with Dr. Jack Adams from Acadia Hospital, chaired the 
council's Special Committee on Opiate Addiction. "Providing that service 
closer to the homes of people who need it out there is a significant step 

City officials, who cheered and applauded upon hearing of the state's 
plans, pushed for the Washington County clinic in hopes of reducing the 
influx of addicts into the city from the area.

Acadia Hospital, at the request of the State Office of Substance Abuse, 
applied in February to open a clinic in Bangor. The news divided the 
community and led to the formation of the City Council's Special Committee 
on Opiate Addiction, which provided its final report to the council on 
Monday night.

The City Council on Monday stood squarely behind a committee recommendation 
that a methadone clinic open in Bangor under certain conditions.

Among the committee's recommendations was that a community advisory group 
be formed to evaluate the clinic's operations. The committee also suggested 
that the clinic not be licensed until hospital officials decide on a 
location - a prerequisite for state and federal licensing.

Acadia officials had proposed locating the clinic at the hospital's remote 
Indiana Avenue facility, but later agreed to find another temporary 
location after city representatives pressed for a more general medical 
setting such as Acadia's main campus on Stillwater Avenue.

Hospital officials have not yet proposed a new site.

The opiate panel also recommended that the state increase funding of the 
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to provide more agents in several Maine counties.

Local police and the state's top federal prosecutor recommended a two-year 
delay for the Bangor clinic, so added police could be in place before its 

Representatives from the panel will present their report to Lynn Duby, the 
commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and 
Substance Abuse Services, on Wednesday. The department licenses and 
oversees methadone treatment services in the state.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D