State Seeking Bidders to Expand Access to Substance Abuse Treatment

For Immediate Release: April 9, 2004

Contact:  Linda Dorey
Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
863-7281

BURLINGTON - As part of the state’s plan to address the growing problem of drug abuse in Vermont, the Department of Health has issued a Request for Proposals seeking a contractor to provide mobile substance abuse treatment services to Vermonters in need throughout the state.

Through this Request for Proposals, the Vermont Department of Health is looking for a highly qualified substance abuse treatment provider who will work closely with state and local officials to bring a full range of substance abuse treatment options, including methadone medication, to Vermont communities where access to such treatment is currently limited.

“While many communities recognize the problem and the need for treatment, it is often difficult for a single community to support a new treatment facility, especially in more rural areas,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, Vermont health commissioner. “A mobile treatment facility will expand access to more people by providing treatment in a number of different locations.”

“I wish I could say that we don’t need additional treatment programs, but the fact is that a growing number of Vermonters are addicted to heroin and other drugs, including prescription opiates, and they want and need treatment and other services to get their lives back on track,” said Dr. Jarris.

Since the mid-1990s, Vermont has experienced a dramatic increase in opiate addiction. In the last six years, the number of Vermonters addicted to heroin and other opiates who sought treatment from programs that receive state funding increased from less than 200 to over 1,100 people. Another 1,000 to 2,000 people are believed to have opiate addiction problems.

In addition to treatment with methadone and other medications, people who are addicted to heroin often require treatment for serious health problems like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, which they acquired as a result of their drug use. The mobile facility will also provide clients with a health assessment, screening, prevention education, and referral to local health care providers and social services.

“The mobile facility is an important part of a larger system which includes prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery supports and services,” said Barbara Cimaglio, director of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the Department of Health.

Addressing Vermont’s drug problems is a high priority for the Douglas administration. In the past year, the State has increased the number of student assistance professionals in schools, established recovery centers, contracted to open an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility, increased funding for local outpatient treatment providers, expanded services for pregnant women addicted to heroin and other drugs, supported community prevention programs and strengthened enforcement.

The Department of Health has been working very closely with the Vermont State Police, the Department of Corrections and other state agencies on this mobile treatment initiative. It is expected that the mobile facility will provide methadone medication treatment services at Vermont’s correctional facilities for individuals who were in treatment prior to entering the correctional system.

Applicants must submit to the Vermont Department of Health a letter of intent by May 3, and a final written proposal by May 17. The RFP also includes a requirement that applicants work closely with communities prior to implementation. Once a bidder is selected, Newport and St. Johnsbury will be the first areas in which services are offered.

Until 2002, methadone treatment for opiate addiction was not available in Vermont. Today, the state has one methadone clinic which is located in Burlington, a partnership between Howard Center for Human Services and Fletcher Allen Health Care. It opened in the fall of 2002. It serves about 100 people and has a consistent waiting list of 100 to 150 people. Many Vermonters continue to travel out-of-state for methadone treatment and others go untreated.

The state is also working to expand the use of a newer treatment called buprenorphine. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine can be prescribed by a primary care physician.

Note: The RFP can be viewed at the website: www.vermontbidsystem.com. It was posted on 04/02/04.