Replacement sought for Duluth methadone clinic

Human services officials are working quickly to find a replacement for a Duluth methadone clinic that provides treatment for about 400 patients.

Lake Superior Treatment Center, which will lose its license on Oct. 8, is the state's only methadone clinic north of Brainerd.

The Department of Human Services announced the decision to revoke the center's license Monday due to serious and chronic violations. The licensing investigation found 56 violations, including excessive caseloads, inadequate employee training and "a clearly demonstrated failure by the program director to understand the licensing regulations," according to the revocation order. The center did not return several calls seeking comment.

The pending closure could leave half of the state without a methadone clinic. Of the state's remaining 14 methadone clinics, only four are located outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Those clinics are in Brainerd, St. Cloud, Willmar and Rochester.

The clinics provide treatment to people addicted to heroin and other opiates by dispensing the synthetic drug methadone, which can reduce withdrawal symptoms and alleviate opiate cravings.

Officials at St. Louis County and the Department of Human Services are talking with several providers in northern Minnesota who may be able to add methadone treatment to the services they already offer, said DHS deputy commissioner Anne Barry.

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"The wrong solution would be to make people travel all over the state to try and get services if they can get them up in the northern part of the state," Barry said.

The closest methadone clinic to Lake Superior Treatment Center is in Brainerd, more than 100 miles away.

Barry said DHS is willing to offer short-term variances from some regulations to allow other facilities to begin providing methadone treatment before Lake Superior Treatment Center shuts down. The center still has the right to appeal the licensing decision before Oct. 8, but the department has not received notice of an appeal.

This locator map shows every methadone clinic in Minnesota. There are few methadone clinics outside the Twin Cities metro. Data source: Minnesota Department of Human Services.