Debate is brewing in South Burlington. School officials have appealed a permit allowing the city to build a methadone clinic close to two schools.
864 Dorset Street in South Burlington is exactly what the HowardCenter was looking for. "It's a medical complex. It has the square footage we require and it's on a bus line," said the Center's Bob Bick.
Perks that substance abuse specialists like Bick say are must-haves for the Center's new expanded methadone clinic. It has outgrown its current facility near Fletcher Allen Healthcare, which is running double shifts just to keep up with demand.
The HowardCenter estimates it will treat about 350 patients at the proposed site on a daily basis. The 10-thousand square foot facility gives the clinic the opportunity to expand to clear some of those patients, seeking treatment, off the waiting list.
The plan is to close the Burlington facility as well as a South Burlington Buprenorphine clinic. Care would be consolidated under one roof. Last month HowardCenter got the go-ahead from city officials to renovate the Dorset Street space. On Friday South Burlington school officials put the brakes on that plan and appealed the project's permit.
"Primary concern is the proximity to the two schools," said David Young, South Burlington's School Superintendent.
Young says the clinic is within 1-thousand feet of a school zone. Students would need to go down Dorset Street, past a few other commercial buildings, to get there. But Young says middle and high schools students frequently cut through the complex and he's worried about kids picking up drug habits and a potential increase in crime if the clinic is allowed. "Those are some of the things in our brains -- around concerns for our students. And maybe the chances of that are very unlikely but -- you know," he said.
Many parents, like Maureen Bissonette, say they aren't opposed to a clinic in their city, but the placement of this one makes them nervous. "It's too close to the school. I don't know who's going to be hanging around in the clinic area and I don't actually feel safe with my child walking to and from here," she said.
Bick says for those who don't have a loved one struggling with opiate addiction the concept of a clinic is scary. But he says the image of junkies loitering outside is misguided. "The expectation is -- they come, like to any medical clinic, they receive the medical services that they need and then they leave," he said.
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