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Rutland Methadone Clinic Sees Success, But Also Some Tension With Other Agencies

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Nina Keck
/
VPR
Rutland's West Ridge Center for Addiction Recovery in Rutland is seeing 350 patients and hopes to reach 400 by the end of the year.

West Ridge Center for Addiction Recovery, more commonly known as Rutland’s methadone clinic, opened last November amid high hopes that it would help ease the city’s growing heroin problem. Clinic officials say they’re currently serving about 350 patients and should have no trouble meeting their goal of 400 by the end of the year.

Rutland Police Chief Jim Baker believes the clinic is part of the reason the city has seen a 24 percent drop in the calls for police services in the first six months of this year.

“It’s early to declare victory, and I’m not saying it’s just the treatment piece,"  Baker says. But the chief  says larcenies are down significantly, which he believes is an early indicator of the clinic’s positive impact.

Rutland Police Chief Baker says larcenies are down significantly, which he believes is an early indicator of the clinic's positive impact.

But while many are celebrating the clinic’s successes, there have been some issues with the clinic interacting with other agencies.

Officials at the Open Door Mission, a Rutland homeless shelter, soup kitchen and thrift store recently announced they would no longer welcome patients from the nearby methadone clinic, saying they were fed up with patients’ allegedly abusive and disorderly behavior.  Sharon Russell, the mission’s director, says the breaking point came when a member of her staff was assaulted by someone coming from the West Ridge clinic. At that point, she said, “I’d had enough.”

Meanwhile, across town, at the Turning Point Center, a substance free community center that provides those in recovery with a safe place to gather, officials say they’ve been surprised by the lack of collaboration with West Ridge.

Jessica Coleman, a recovery coach based at the Turning Point Center, says a number of her clients are getting help at West Ridge. “It’s made a difference,” she said. “People are able to get on the medication faster; the waiting lists have definitely gone down. But in my opinion there’s more to getting well than just getting your medication every day.”

Coleman believes patients who receive daily doses of buprenorphine or methadone to curb their opiate cravings need every resource available to beat their addiction, including the various group activities offered at the Turning Point Center.  Yet she says so far, there’s been little if any collaboration.  It  doesn’t make sense, she says  for two organizations on the same team not to work more closely together.

But officials at the Turning Point Center, a substance free community center that provides those in recovery with a safe place to gather, say they've been surprised by the lack of collaboration with West Ridge.

But Jeff McKee, Director of Behavioral Health Services for Rutland Regional Medical Center, which oversees the West Ridge Clinic, says he’s surprised by the criticism. He believes the lack of outreach has more to do with the workload in getting the clinic up and running than any negativity toward the Turning Point Center.

“Collaboration is part of our mission at the West Ridge Center,” says McKee. “So whether its primary care, recovery centers, 12-step groups, families and other support folks, we feel like all of those things are absolutely necessary to help people maintain a successful recovery.  So to the extent that someone feels we are not being collaborative enough,” says McKee, “we’ll work harder.”

As to the clinic’s relationship with the Open Door Mission, mission director Sharon Russell says Jeff McKee called her to set up a meeting this week and she’s optimistic the two organizations will figure out a way to work together.

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