Bangor councilors postpone moratorium vote on Suboxone treatment growth

Posted Nov. 13, 2013, at 9:43 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor city councilors will revisit a revised version of the city’s proposed 180-day moratorium on the Suboxone treatment expansion at the city’s addiction treatment facilities.

The original version of the ordinance, which the council was scheduled to vote on during Wednesday night’s meeting, only imposed a moratorium on permitting new Suboxone facilities in the city. It did not place a temporary ban on the expansion of those treatment programs, which would have allowed facilities that currently have licenses to administer Suboxone or buprenorphine treatments to increase the number of patients they are treating based on state approvals, according to Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas.

The revised version would prevent any new facilities, as well as the expansion of existing ones, for up to 180 days.

The revision will be considered by the Government Operations Committee during a committee meeting on Nov. 19 and likely will be decided by the full council on Nov. 25.

Opponents of the moratorium have said that delaying expansions will only delay help for people on the long waiting list of those seeking treatment for their addictions.

Councilors say they are pursuing the moratorium because they want to take a closer look at the city’s regulations on chemical dependency treatment facilities and, if needed, set new rules.

The council’s concern about the number of people receiving Suboxone treatment in Bangor stems from the larger issue of how many Mainers are coming to Bangor for chemical addiction therapy.

Bangor is home to three separate facilities with licenses to administer methadone treatments for 1,500 patients. There are nine such facilities in the state, but no other city in the state has more than one, and Portland has the second highest number of licenses with just 500.

Councilors say they support a bill that would allow more federally qualified health centers across the state to administer methadone, easing Bangor’s share of patients and allowing those patients a chance to get their treatments closer to home. Some travel as long as two hours each day to get to Bangor for their treatment.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the council accepted nearly $7,000 in donations raised to keep the Odlin Road Community Connector bus route going. Much of that was raised during a Halloween spaghetti supper benefit organized by Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci. That brings the total amount raised to about $11,000, but to run the route for a year, the city would need $20,000. Baldacci said he hopes other city councilors would be willing to use city funds to cover the remaining $9,000, which would keep the route running through June 2014.

Baldacci said the high turnout at the benefit, which drew about 400 people, and more who couldn’t be seated, shows that people value public transportation as a vital part of the community.

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