Officials hope St. Albans center will stem the tide of overdose deaths

Published: Nov. 2, 2017 at 5:39 PM EDT
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Vermont's newest drug treatment center is eliminating the waitlist for treatment in Franklin County.

"We've worked hard over the years to make treatment accessible across the state to all Vermonters near to where they work and live," said Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine.

BAART St. Albans just marked its first month open at its permanent South Main Street spot. They've already picked up 235 patients.

"We're still bringing in anywhere from 10-14 patients per week," said BAART's Jason Goguen.

The facility treats adult patients, offering medicated treatment options like Suboxone, Methadone, Subutex, and Vivitrol -- and with early morning clinic hours.

This is the first methadone treatment center in Franklin County. Before the facility opened, people had to drive about an hour away to get help. BAART's parent company owns clinics across the country, and already has hundreds of patients at its other Green Mountain locations.

"Berlin is around 550. Newport is around 440. St. J is 370," Goguen said.

The facility opens as Vermont's opioid crisis is at an all-time high, with 112 opioid-related deaths in 2016. It was a 41-percent increase from a year before. "We know that people in treatment are much less likely to die of overdose. To that end, knowing that as many as 8 out of 10 individuals may actually not be actively seeking treatment, we must intensify our efforts to connect with them," Levine said.

We wanted to know how the state was making sure that investments in treatment centers like this pay off, but the Governor told us the state can't quantify the clinic's success. BAART leaders say success is measured on a personal basis, by updating plans every three months and tracking relapse rates. "We individualize it. We run on a harm reduction model, which means it's going to be different for everybody," Goguen said.

Medicaid pays for most treatments, which BAART officials say are primarily offered on-demand, with appointments often set for the next day. The clinic anticipates it will eliminate Franklin County's wait list which last totaled about 50 people.