Bennington treatment hub plan shelved

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BENNINGTON — With the withdrawal of Acadia Healthcare's proposal for a comprehensive opioid addition treatment hub facility in Bennington, it remains unclear how the local treatment network will be configured going forward.

The state certificate of need application and paperwork related to the Acadia proposal, filed last year, remains posted on the website of the Green Mountain Care Board, which administers the CON program.

However, Acadia has informed state officials that plan has been abandoned, said Donna Jerry, the board's senior health policy analyst.

She said Acadia, which operates an addiction treatment facility in Brattleboro and numerous others around the region and nation, has not formally withdrawn its application but did notify the board in an email that it was no longer pursuing the project.

An Acadia spokesman confirmed the decision Thursday but declined to specify the company's reasons.

Officials familiar with the situation said the primary reason was that Acadia was unable to secure a site in Bennington for the treatment center that would suit its needs and requirements.

300 to 500 patients

The Acadia proposal included establishing a seven-day-a-week, out-patient treatment hub, or Opiate Treatment Program facility, to offer a range of addiction services to an estimated 300 patients shortly after opening and up to 500 within five years.

Those services were to include providing daily doses of buprenorphine (Suboxone) for medically assisted treatments, but not methadone treatment; drug testing and group and individual counseling; and the center would maintain adequate medical and counseling staff to meet the Bennington area treatment needs.

According to the CON application, the facility, which Acadia estimated would cost $656,763 including renovation expenses, would have been authorized to accept as many patients as required to meet the needs of the area — considered to be underserved in terms of addiction services.

Cynthia Seivwright, director of the state Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, said late last year that the division was supportive of the type of inclusive hub program proposed by Acadia, and that the state would allocate $175,000 to get the facility up and running.

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Also last year, ADAP decided to eliminate annual grant funding to United Counseling Service in Bennington, which operated a smaller outpatient treatment facility. Those patients were transferred to other providers, and the planned new center was expected to help with that process.

State officials noted that Acadia Healthcare has the expertise and resources to establish, staff and operate a treatment center on the scale proposed in Bennington.

ADAP officials could not be reached this week for comment on the Acadia withdrawal or on current plans to ensure access to treatment in Bennington.

Current options

It was unclear Thursday whether there is a consensus on what the next steps taken should be to realize the area's treatment goals.

Kristi Cross, director of Bennington Blueprint and project director for the Bennington Opioid Response Plan, said in an email that there are "no proposals that we know of," referring to plans similar to the comprehensive center Acadia considered.

She added, however, that SaVida Health, a regional company which in early 2018 opened a smaller scale out-patient treatment facility on Dewey Street, has expanded recently.

Officials with SaVida Health did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Both Cross and state Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who has advocated for an expansion of treatment services locally, said establishing a treatment hub in the area remains a goal, as it was in 2018.

"The Bennington Opioid Response Team is a collaboration of multiple leaders from organizations in Bennington County," Cross said. "Establishing a Hub in Bennington is a top priority of our strategic plan. There are discussions occurring on a state and local level and we hope to have a finalized plan by the end of the year."

Other entities expected to be involved in providing or coordinating addiction treatment services here are Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Turning Point Center.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien     


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