Neighbors, officials tour Lewiston’s first methadone clinic

Jennifer Minthorn, program director of the Merrimack River Medical Services clinic, shows city officials and local law enforcement the queue area of the methadone clinic that opened on Sept. 19 on Mollison Way in Lewiston during an open house on Friday.
Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Jennifer Minthorn, program director of the Merrimack River Medical Services clinic, shows city officials and local law enforcement the queue area of the methadone clinic that opened on Sept. 19 on Mollison Way in Lewiston during an open house on Friday.
Posted Dec. 11, 2011, at 6:04 a.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — The clean, white-tiled floors at 18 Mollison Way could belong just about anywhere — a telephone call center, a business recruiting storefront or a Motor Vehicles Bureau office.

In this case, however, they belong to a methadone treatment clinic — Lewiston’s first.

Operators of the Merrimack River Medical Services clinic held an open house Friday, giving neighboring businesses and city officials tours of the facility.

What really gives it away that the office is home to more than a normal health clinic is the security. Visitors are greeted by a blue-clad security guard, and those seeking treatment must scan a special card to be admitted. A computer screen directs them where to go — the dosing line off to the left, the counseling area to the right or the front desk to speak to the attendant.

Otherwise, it looks like any other urban office.

That’s by design. Massachusetts-based Community Substance Abuse Centers hopes to present a clean, professional face for neighboring businesses. But more important, they want to reduce the stigma on people seeking methadone treatment.

“While we’re proud of what we do, we need our patients to take pride in the facility, too,” Chief Executive Officer Matt Davis said. “We really try to provide them dignity and respect and take away some of the shame that might be connected with this treatment.”

Methadone is used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, including heroin and OxyContin.

That stigma is a very real thing, said Norma Reppucci, vice president of operations for Community Substance Abuse Centers, and it can keep people from seeking treatment.

“There can be a view of people who are seeking treatment that’s somehow worse than people who are addicted but not seeking treatment,” Reppucci said. “It can be a known thing, as opposed to addiction that’s kept secret. Illicit substances cause people to be unstable, and they usually have to do illegal activity to keep getting the drug while we are focused on recovery. When you are taking methadone as prescribed by us, you are on a controlled dosage and are working to be responsible and connect to the community and do daily, normal activities.”

The company operates 12 other clinics in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a 13th in Portland.

The Lewiston clinic opened Sept. 19 and treats 155 patients. They come in daily between 5:30 and 11:30 a.m. to get their liquid methadone — 6 to 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays — and then go on their way. They must come back at least once a month for counseling and must submit to medical screening and drug testing.

Medical Director Susan Moner said most of the clinic’s patients are between the ages of 20 and 29 and were addicted to prescription opioid drugs, such as OxyContin.

Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere said his officers noted three incidents that involved the clinic. One had to do with a person who had an outstanding warrant. The other two were patients who were caught speeding to the clinic on a Saturday, hoping to make it there before it closed at 9 a.m.

He urged the clinic staff to tell their patients to slow down.

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