Vermont hospital cuts addiction treatment to cut costs

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - The opiate crisis touches every corner of Vermont and Franklin County is no exception. But now, the only hospital in town, Northwestern Medical Center, is eliminating its addiction treatment services. Our Elissa Borden reports on what this means for clients who need care.

“We wouldn’t have even entertained such a venture if we weren’t prepared,” said Dan Hall, the director of outpatient services at the Howard Center.

The Howard Center is preparing to take on potentially hundreds of new clients at the end of the month, as Northwestern Medical Center ends its addiction services treatment.

“We’ve had a practice that has focused on addiction treatment and we are closing that practice and allowing community partners to take on that business,” said Jonathan Billings of Northwestern Medical Center.

Closing it because the hospital was spending more on addiction treatment than it was making.

“Even though this is a high area of need, it’s one that the hospital loses money on significantly and it’s also one that has very strong community partners that are able to provide the service and do it beautifully,” Billings said.

Now, Phoenix House and the Howard Center are stepping up to take over that transition, of some 450 patients.

The Howard Center’s St. Albans location is directly across the street from NMC.

I’m told they’re making necessary staffing adjustments and fitting the existing building to accommodate the slate of patients, but they’re not expecting all 400 plus.

“Clients have choice in where they get their services and so even though Howard Center and NMC kind of came up with a formal arrangement to transition, clients are welcome to go elsewhere if that’s where they choose or stay with an existing provider,” Hall said.

Hall tells me they’ve seen patients beginning to make the transition and that they’re ready to take them on.

NMC is working to get all of its patients receiving addiction services transferred over to the Phoenix House or the Howard Center by July 31.

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