BANGOR, Maine — City councilors voted Monday night to allow one of Bangor’s three methadone clinics to expand from 500 patients to 700.
Discovery House, a Rhode Island-based firm that operates 20 clinics in five Northeast states, including four in Maine, made the request last month to increase capacity at its clinic off Odlin Road.
Brent Miller, the clinic’s director, told members of the council’s government operations committee in September that the expansion is needed to meet area demand for methadone, a synthetic drug used to wean addicts off heroin and other opiates.
He explained that nearly 100 patients are on a waiting list, and that doesn’t include the 25 patients who recently were referred to Discovery House when the Turning Tide clinic in Rockland unexpectedly closed in August.
Discovery House already received the state’s approval to expand this summer. Miller said Monday that his staff would begin accepting new patients immediately.
Councilors said they have been impressed with Discovery House’s operation, although some lamented the fact that Bangor has become the area’s unofficial home for methadone patients.
In casting the single opposing vote, Councilor Cary Weston said he was saddened that methadone patients are a segment of the population that continues to grow.
Bangor has three clinics, but Miller said only about 30 percent of Discovery House’s clients are actually from Bangor, which suggests the demand reaches far beyond the Queen City. The next-closest clinics are located in Waterville and Calais.
Bangor’s Acadia Hospital operates a methadone clinic that can serve up to 900 patients, although it serves only about 550. The city’s third clinic, Penobscot County Metro Treatment Center, has the capacity to serve about 300 patients and is serving more than 250 as of last month.
Acadia recently announced that it no longer would provide free methadone to patients who do not have health insurance. No other clinic in Maine provides methadone free of charge.
According to Miller, 85 percent of Discovery House patients have health insurance through MaineCare. The remaining number pay for treatment in cash, which works out to about $95 a week, he said, or well below the cost of maintaining an addiction to opiates.