New Rockland methadone clinic serves 'different kind of patient'

By Juliette Laaka | Aug 30, 2013
Photo by: Juliette Laaka Regional Director Bill Fischer, Program Director Mike Franklin, and Medical Director Judith Weisman share information Aug. 28 with the public about Rockland Metro Treatment Center, a methadone clinic on New County Road in Rockland that opened in June and serves 30 patients.

Rockland — Rockland Metro Treatment Center, the methadone clinic that opened on New County Road in June, is a different facility than the one that operated from the same building three years ago.

"Our patients are not the ones out robbing pharmacies," said Medical Director Judith Weisman.

The clinic, which serves 30 patients, is open 365 days a year. The average age of a patient at Rockland Metro is 35, and the tenet of patients is " methadone saved my life," said Weisman.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid used to treat narcotic addiction.

Weisman and Mike Franklin, program director of the drug treatment program, say their patients are a different kind of patient than the public may perceive.

"These are hardworking people — catching lobsters, building houses, towing cars, business owners," Weisman said. Patients often tell her they are nervous their vehicles will be seen in the parking lot.

Franklin, the former clinical director of the closed Turning Tide clinic, said he understands the community apprehension to accepting another clinic.

"There is a tendency to assume all methadone clinics are alike, which is not the case. The staff, management and ownership make the difference," he said.

The Turning Tide clinic, which was located in the same building, was closed in 2010 after Turning Tide founder and licensed operator Angel Fuller-McMahan of Owls Head was charged with felony possession of cocaine.

Franklin said the new clinic has more oversight, including pharmacy records monitored by a third party, and better communication among staff. The clinic follows both federal and state regulations.

An advisory committee meeting was held Aug. 28 to inform members of the first two months of operation at the clinic. The committee includes Mayor Will Clayton, resident Sandra Schramm, resident Jim Pease and Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher.

Patients receiving treatment at the Rockland clinic either have insurance, or pay out-of-pocket for their doses. The clinic does not accept MaineCare, which Franklin said suppresses business. A majority of the patients pay out-of-pocket for treatment, spending an average of $5,200 on treatment annually, he said.

Franklin said as the clinic does not accept MaineCare, patients show a stronger will and determination to receive help.

The breakdown of patients by gender is 77 percent male and 23 percent female. Franklin said as time progresses, the numbers should even out.

The clinic is licensed to serve up to 400 patients and only dispenses methadone, not Suboxone. Franklin said the main difference between the two drugs is the way it is administered. Both medications are taken orally, but methadone is a liquid that the patient drinks, and Suboxone is taken as a strip that dissolves when placed under the tongue. There is a water cooler nearby the dosing station because, as he has heard from patients, "methadone tastes nasty."

Weisman said methadone does not create a high for patients, but rather, suppresses cravings. Some patients decide they eventually want to be weaned off treatment, while others decide a small dose everyday is sufficient for them to function adequately. Quitting cold turkey is not considered best practice, Franklin said.

"We want people to succeed," he said, and added the clinic never denies a dose decrease.

There is no cap on a dose given to patients and the dose per individual is determined by the patient's ability to metabolize methadone. "It has nothing to do with size or weight," Franklin said.

At an Aug. 28 meeting involving community members and officials, Mayor Will Clayton told Franklin that, unfortunately, the new clinic will need to prove itself to the public to earn trust, something that was damaged by the reputation of the old clinic. He said providing information and common knowledge would be helpful in educating the city.

"Public perception is hard to change and overcome," Clayton said, adding the legal battle between Warren and CRC Health Group Inc. can breed further mistrust.

Franklin said he is sensitive to the sentiment that people do not want a clinic in their community.

Patients come to the center daily to receive a dose. They first check in with a receptionist and then report to a dispensing window where they identify themselves with a patient number. A nurse is able to pull up on the computer the patient's treatment regiment and photo.

Patients that look or seem high on another drug are not given a dose and are asked to come back the next day, which Weisman said has happened.

"I just told them to come back the next day, that they weren't getting a dose, and they said, O.K.," she said.

After 90 days at the clinic, patients become eligible to receive take-home doses. Patients must also have a history of no disturbance at the clinic, compliant with counseling and free from illicit drug use.

At 90 to 100 days at the clinic, patients can take home one dose, and eventually, after 360 days at the clinic, they are eligible to take home up to six doses. To ensure the treatment is taken correctly and not abused, the clinic does "random call backs", where patients must come into the clinic with unused doses and empty bottles to check if they have been tampered with.

Random drug tests through collecting urine samples also determines if patients have been taking the dose allotted to them, and not selling it through the testing of methadone metabolites in urine. Patient urine is collected and stored in a refrigerator at the clinic until it is collected on Tuesdays and sent to a lab for testing.

Franklin said the clinic randomly tests all patients at least monthly.

Four hours is allotted to admit a patient to the clinic for intake and assessment. The clinic is staffed now by Franklin, Weisman, and one counselor, along with a weekend nurse and a weekday nurse. Security is provided by former Rockland Police Officer Jeff McLaughlin. The clinic also operates 14 security cameras in the building and on the grounds of the clinic.

The advisory committee is scheduled to meet on a quarterly basis.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@coureirpublicationsllc.com.

Rockland Metro Treatment Center Program Director Mike Franklin, front left, gives a tour of the new methadone clinic to Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher, in back, Mayor Will Clayton and Rockland resident Sandra Schramm. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
Comments (20)
Posted by: Michelle Marie Wooster | Sep 08, 2013 07:47

I feel that people need to stop and think, God made us all unique individuals, which means NO 2 people are exactly alike. I am currently on methadone maintenance for both addiction as well as chronic pain. I have been for 7 yrs. now, and no I have no intention of changing that. To answer one womans question, yes, many people just need the treatment temporarily. One problem is that the methadone is one of the best pain meds out there and the only one I've ever used that didn't leave me feeling I wanted more than I actually needed. Unfortunately, the law won't allow the clinics to treat the chronic pain, you MUST also have addiction. I am not a lazy person, I worked very hard since I was a child, mostly on lobster boats which is very physical work. I feel very insulted by some of these people judging me by what I did in my using days or what others have done or are doing now. Also as far as the fear of people getting high on it, yes, if used occasionally, or don't stick to a dose that fits your own issues, you can. That why it's call "Methadone Maintainance". Once you find your dose you SHOULD be on, you don't get the high anymore if used properly w/out adding other street drugs or alchohol, you just feel like you did before you those of us who have that issue. That is IF used properly which I assure you I became addicted and can function in society in a healthy way and pain free for have. That being said Methadone DID save MY life. My next question is why no one makes such a fuss over the alcoholic side of addiction. Just us drug addicts. Well those who are uneducated about addiction, drug or alcohol, need to stop and think, why are we selling alcohol in all the stores and restraunts and we even get bar rooms, just to go drink. Now lets compare, how easily are our children getting access to that? Are we getting high off it? How much violence involves alcohol, not to mention all the innocent people getting killed by drunk drivers on the roads, for some reason I guess that's o.k. because it's legal? Did you people realize alcohol is a drug too? How many people posting comments about the clinics have your evening glass of wine when you go to dinner or a cold beer on a hot summer day? There is a lot of denial out there with these people who drink on a regular basis but don't think they have a problem because they've never been in trouble. Well I think if that were illegal, those numbers would change. You can't honestly say your drinking it for the taste, anything that alters ones mood is a drug so lets all get a lot more educated before voicing public opinion and insulted those of us that have overcome our shortcomings and admitted to having problems but were strong enough to admit it and get help. Lets talk more about getting alcohol off the shelves and see how much the statistics change on violence, crime and especially road accidents and deaths and then do the math and see how that stacks up to methadone. At least try to think about it while you're sipping on that next drink, thinking  YOU don't have a problem. If you don't think I have an idea of what I'm talking about I have a wonderful daughter and mother who I think will tell you how grateful they are with the new me, if I don't get it from others, it's O.K. because NOW I feel I can hold my head up high again. And not HIGH on methadone, just high on life. When taken on a regular basis at a regular dose you don't get the high so many worry about. It's only if you misuse it, JUST like alcohol, imagine that.



Posted by: Sam Charlton | Sep 03, 2013 06:13

Susan: The ADA recognizes addiction as a disease. The ADA doesn't mandate what insurances will be accepted as payment for treatment. This is a Private clinic,. Unless the clinic was funded with Federal monies, they can accept or deny insurances at will. According to the article, this clinic is on a cash only basis. There was no mention of accepting ANY insurances.



Posted by: steve carriere | Sep 02, 2013 22:15

Susan: It may be a catch 22 from both sides...the dr. can refuse Mainecare, they just can't refuse to treat the patient...then that puts more problems on the patient..they don't have insurance to pay for the treatment, but they are going to be saddled with an enormous debt for the treatment they receive.....its a horrible situation all around, but again, as someone who has been in rehab and ongoing recovery for over 5 years, I have found for myself the best treatment is a good AA meeting.....it worked for me, it can work for others too....as we say, its the best therapy money cannot buy.

 



Posted by: Catherine L Leonard | Sep 02, 2013 20:05

Susan I am not sure of the answer. Doctor's offices can say they are not accepting Maine Care. I would think that they could....just not sure. It is kind of scary if people cannot get help and they truly need it! Not just talking about methadone but any medical attention!

 



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Sep 02, 2013 13:35

I am going to ask my question again, for the sixth time, and I wish someone would answer my question.  Someone please correct me if I am wrong.  I believe that people who have a problem with alcohol and drugs are covered in "America's Disability Act" and the addiction is classified as a disability.  If this is the case how can the new clinic not accept people who are covered by Maine Care or Medicaid or Medicare.  I believe that it may be illegal for the clinic to refuse people with the above insurances.



Posted by: steve carriere | Sep 01, 2013 11:21

Mr. Weisman - I might add that there isn't a single addict out there who ISN'T hardworking. Addiction, as YOU should know based on the professional line of work you are in, does not discriminate. Addiction afflicts those who are affluent and in the public eye (Amy Winehouse, Charlie Sheen, Lamar Odom, just to name a few), to those who you and I don't even know on a day to day basis. By the way, I am one of those in recovery. So don't get on your pedestal and classify those who deserve your form of treatment as those who are more affluent than others. When Bill Wilson founded AA, I'm sure he and Dr. Bob didn't envision that those who wanted to be sober and clean 'just for today' would have a ton of cash and influence to "buy" their sobriety. All he said was that those who wanted their sobriety would go to any lengths to get it and help others. He never said we had to be of certain character or social status. Maybe your clinic needs to revisit those 12 steps and reacquaint yourselves with the basic ideology of the 12 step program besides offering addicts another "drug" to fight their drug addiction. Getting clean and sober involves a lot more than just combatting any addiction with another drug.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 01, 2013 08:34

Mr. Wilson,

Since this business is in our city, IT IS OUR BUSINESS!

 

Very well said, Steve.



Posted by: Michael Wilson | Sep 01, 2013 08:02

I think you people need to mind your own business......



Posted by: Michael M Ball | Aug 31, 2013 13:40

Methadone gets you high don't be fooled just a legal drug dealer. you can get clean and sober with AA,NA and God by your side



Posted by: Catherine L Leonard | Aug 31, 2013 12:04

Mr. Carriere you said what I tried to say. Thank you!! My words do not always come out the way I want them to.



Posted by: steve carriere | Aug 31, 2013 10:16

Right away this article reeked of judgment, perception, and disgusting snootiness. "Our patients are not the ones out robbing pharmacies". Really? Who the hell are you to classify and put on a pedestal the quality of your clientelle? Is that a criteria for determining if someone needs help or not, whether they rob a drug store or not? Shame on you. An addict is an addict period. Their level of addiction is not for you to judge or classify. If you're going to judge who meets your criteria for getting help based on what you judge an addict does in their personal life, then you do no good to the true addict who needs help.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 31, 2013 10:10

Pat,

YES, I did read the ENTIRE ARTICLE before posting my "same old same old".  Before you judge who is posting what since you do not know any of us, consider that methadone is for life.  It has become a street drug, of choice, and also there have been many deaths due to this drug.  I have no problem with clients of these methadone businesses taking it, I have a problem with the take home and the customers selling their doses on the streets or to their friends just to get high. Unfortunately, methadone is not, in my opinion, the cure all for addicts as it does just the opposite and there is no plan to get off the drug.



Posted by: Catherine L Leonard | Aug 31, 2013 10:01

Serves a "different kind of patient". There is only financial differences. An addict is an addict.  This article reeks of snottyness for lack of a better word. Their clientele came from different walks of life? I wonder if they ever stopped to think how some of these people can afford to pay out of pocket towards $5200 annually. I am not saying they are all crooks. It is just wrong to say that because they pay out of their pocket or they have insurance it makes them better people. These are hard working people....What difference does that make? Angel Fuller- McMahan was a working person too!!

I really do not understand the necessity of methadone. I know there are some that use it for pain management and it is important for them to have it. For the addicts why is it that it is not used only short term? I am not sure I will ever approve of the use of methadone for drug addiction. Its changing 1 drug for another. They said in the article that it does not create a high then why have so many sold their dosages? How is it used for pain management? It must have some special effects besides suppression of cravings?



Posted by: pat putnam | Aug 31, 2013 08:54

Did anyone making these comments actually take the time to read the article? Or did you just read the headline and decide to put out the same old same old.

Methadone clinics save lives. Not everyone is as strong as you people who think that the individual is in control. We need each other's help in this life. Sooner or later you may start to understand that…I hope.



Posted by: Sonja Sleeper | Aug 31, 2013 08:15

Not liking the idea of this clinic, drug addicts have to quit on their own, giving them placebo just continues the behavior.  As with anything in life it is always up to the individual.   



Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 31, 2013 02:23

Is it part of the treatment plan to wean them off methadone so that they can be totally drug free eventually?  Or is this methadone for life?



Posted by: Harley Roger Colwell | Aug 30, 2013 23:28

Having working clients helps. Before, the battle cry was "ohhh, it takes an hour or so for the drug to take effect. Patients have  time to get home and drive safely." In reality, there was pepetually a "goose's-gaggle" of unemployable, chain-smoking chatty-Kathys sitting around gossiping for half the morning, before getting into their cars completely under the influence and causing accidents in front of the clinic. I routinely begged my wife not to drive that way to do errands. Hopefully, we won't have the "monkeys-guarding-the-banannas" management scenario again either. Gosh, what the hell ever happened to just getting clean and sober? Has it gone out of style? And yes, I'm some clients are under pain management. There are, sincerely, less risky options. Really.

 



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Aug 30, 2013 21:12

I  have asked this question several times but received no answer.  It says the clinic is regulated by federal and state regulations and my question is: THE FEDERAL CONSIDERS DRUG ADDICTION A DISEASE so how can you NOT accept MaineCare clients?  Isn't that discrimination?  CAN SOMEONE PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION.



Posted by: Clifton Yattaw, Jr | Aug 30, 2013 16:52

The one thing that I notice is that the addicts drive 80 to 100 MPH to get their fix while I'm driving to work in the morning trying to earn money to pay for their habits.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 30, 2013 15:16

Now, how would they know that their clients aren't out doing god knows what with their methadone.  They can't turn anyone away.  It would be against the America's Disability act.  Sorry, fought it tooth and nail when the first methadone clinic came here.  Still feel just as strongly as I did years ago.

 



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Juliette Laaka
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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