Bangor council to consider ban on Suboxone treatment expansion

Posted Nov. 23, 2013, at 12:29 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors are expected to decide whether to place an up-to-180-day moratorium on the expansion of Suboxone or buprenorphine treatment programs during a meeting Monday night.

Some city councilors have said they want that time to review the city’s regulations on drug addiction treatment facilities and, if needed, pass new rules regarding buprenorphine treatment. Under state law, the moratorium could be extended an additional 180 days if the council finds a problem exists and makes “reasonable progress” toward alleviating it.

The council was scheduled to decide the issue during a Nov. 13 meeting, but delayed its vote so it could consider a revised version that included a moratorium on expanded treatment at current facilities rather than just blocking any new treatment facilities.

Councilors have expressed concerns that the city is home to more than its fair share of drug treatment programs. Bangor has three methadone clinics licensed to treat a combined 1,500 patients. The next closest in number is Portland, which is licensed to treat 500 patients. No other town in the state has more than one clinic that administers methadone.

The city already has ordinances that regulate methadone treatment facilities under land use rules, but there are no such restrictions for Suboxone facilities.

Suboxone is an alternative to methadone that is less tightly controlled because it has a lower potential for abuse and is less dangerous in an overdose, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As patients progress on therapy, their doctor may write a prescription for a take-home supply of the medication. Suboxone contains the active ingredient buprenorphine, which reduces the symptoms of opioid dependence.

Critics of the moratorium, including representatives of several Bangor treatment facilities, argue it would only prevent people on lengthy waiting lists from receiving treatment as quickly as possible.

During a committee meeting last week, Bruce Campbell, clinical director of Wellspring, said a Suboxone moratorium would spread the “shame and stigma” of addiction and send a message “that we don’t want to help, that we don’t want to lend a hand.”

Also on Monday, the council likely will accept a pair of one-year grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provide rent to families who have experienced homelessness and are transitioning into apartments in Penobscot County. Together, the grants total more than $150,000.

In other business, the council will decide whether to allocate $9,000 toward the Community Connector bus service’s Odlin Road route. If approved, that would join the $11,000 raised in recent months by community members and businesses and keep the route going through June 30. With more budget cuts looming, it’s unclear what the route’s future will be after that.

Monday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

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