"We are pleased to begin serving clients," said Bob Bick of the HowardCenter.
The HowardCenter opened the site on Dorset Street to meet a growing demand for treatment of opiate addiction. Right now, 600 people in Chittenden County are on a waiting list to get methadone.
"We are not seeing any diminishment of the opiate, heroin, or prescription drug problem in Chittenden County or Vermont," Bick said.
People use methadone because the drug helps suppress withdrawal symptoms.
The clinic has met strong resistance, like a honking protest back in May. Opponents worry about increased foot traffic from people addicted to drugs and dealers preying on them. The clinic is located close to city schools. The school board is appealing its location.
"I don't want a methadone clinic 400 feet from our schools. I have three boys in that school system right now," Mike McMackin said in May. "You've got people trying to get better in the methadone clinic, which is good. But you've also got drug dealers that are trying to capitalize on those guys at the clinic, who could also capitalize on the kids."
And news that it opened Friday frustrates parents.
"I just think that 483 feet from a school is wrong and especially with that many patients daily," said Ida Smith Ludlow, who opposes the location.
The HowardCenter argues getting treatment to those asking for it will actually reduce crime.
"So to the extent we can get people in treatment when seeking treatment, we have the best chance to be successful," Bick said.
"If somebody doesn't want it, it's not going to work. But for the people who are asking, there is far too many people waiting. That's where we are falling down," Bill Young said.
Young runs Maple Leaf Farm, a residential treatment facility in Underhill. He says a decade ago, 22 percent of Vermonters seeking treatment were addicted to opiates. Today, it's 51 percent, surpassing alcohol addiction for the first time.
"What we found as opiate use increased, those folks weren't making it," Young said.
Maple Leaf used to oppose treating opiate addicts with drugs, but now says it works.
"What was being done wasn't working and this seemed to offer and alternative," Young said.
And despite critics and a pending lawsuit from the school system hoping to shut it down, the methadone clinic is now open for business.
"We have a significant number of individuals in this community whose lives on a daily basis are being destroyed because of their use of substance that they no longer wish to use," Bick said.
The clinic says they have security measures in place. And parents tell us South Burlington schools are also working to keep students away from the area.
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