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Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune , Published April 17 2012

State rejects second Duluth methadone clinic

DULUTH, Minn. - The state Department of Human Services commissioner has overruled a previous decision by her department and denied providing the Superior Treatment Center with a “determination of need,” a required component to open a proposed second methadone treatment clinic in Duluth.

In a letter to Superior Treatment Center Director Chad Braafladt dated April 13, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said Braafladt did not meet state standards requiring him to show there was an adequate need to open the clinic, which Braafladt had proposed for somewhere in the western part of Duluth.

Jesson also wrote that the St. Louis County Board’s opposition to the clinic also weighed in her decision.

“The information you submitted to support your request despite the County’s lack of support for your application is inadequate to justify a finding that there is need for this additional program and that you have a business plan to make the new clinic self-sustaining over the first year,” Jesson wrote.

In his application, Braafladt told the state there was a 400-person waiting list at the only methadone clinic in Duluth, the Lake Superior Treatment Center. However, Jesson said the waiting list is now down to 250.

“I am even more concerned by the lack of a clear plan to attract an adequate number of clients as required by (state law),” Jesson wrote.

Braafladt told the News Tribune on Monday that he didn’t know yet if the state’s action would delay his plans to open the clinic, which he said last week he expected to open sometime this summer.

He characterized Jesson’s rejection of his application as based on technical reasons.

“I don’t think this is fair,” he said. “I find this whole situation unusual. We’ve been working on this since last summer, and have been doing everything we’re supposed to do.”

While Jesson encouraged Braafladt to submit another request to open a methadone clinic, her ruling also makes it unlikely that he’ll be successful. Jesson urged Braafladt to work with the county on opening another clinic and “do all you can to obtain a letter of need directly from them.”

But the county has already denied providing that letter of need. After the state gave it to Braafladt, the County Board voted unanimously earlier this month to direct Ann Busche, the county’s director of public health and human services, to send a letter to the state expressing opposition to Braafladt’s planned clinic.

“To me it’s clear that the county wants to open a clinic with the (Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment). Why that is, I don’t know,” Braafladt said, referring to the nonprofit addiction treatment center that for years has had a contract with the county to run the Duluth Detoxification Center. The center also provides outpatient chemical dependency treatment services throughout Duluth.

Braafladt said he’d like to find out why the county won’t work with him, “but they won’t contact me.”

Busche has indicated a willingness to work with the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment to open a second methadone clinic in Duluth, telling the News Tribune last week that “we would be more open to CADT because of our historical positive relationship.”

The director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, Gary Olson, said last week that he wants to partner with the county to open a second methadone clinic in Duluth.

Busche said Monday that Commissioner Jesson’s ruling allows the county to start over with plans to open a potential second methadone clinic.

“I see this as a new beginning, where we can have more county, community and law enforcement input,” Busche said. “All the entities that will be impacted by this service in the area should all have a seat at the table.”