State Fines Methadone Treatment Centers

The state has ordered two Minneapolis drug treatment centers to pay a $1,200 fine on allegations they improperly dispensed the drug-treatment medicine methadone.

The Minnesota Human Services Department also put conditions on Specialized Treatment Services’ license for its two Minneapolis centers.

The department alleges the organization inappropriately changed methadone doses and broke rules in providing a take-home dose of methadone, as well as using pre-signed authorization forms not specifically for the methadone patient and failing to have a registered nurse in the position of nursing supervisor.

“Methadone is a controlled substance and its use for the treatment of chemical dependency must be monitored carefully,” said department Inspector General Jerry Kerber.

The STS action comes on the heels of increased publicity for methadone use, and a promise by Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson to crack down on its misuse.

The Duluth News Tribune ran a series on the subject in September, prompting a closer look into methadone, which is used to treat heroin and opiate addiction. It also is used to treat pain.

Heroin and opiate addiction is increasing, and the Human Services Department is looking at ways to deal with it. While some say methadone is the best treatment, others say the medicine is just replacing one addictive narcotic with another.

STS, which can appeal the state action, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was cited for similar violations earlier this year and last year.

In September, the state revoked the license of the Lake Superior Treatment Center in Duluth, the only methadone clinic for the treatment of opiate addiction in the area, for alleged state and federal violations.

The Duluth facility’s license already was on conditional status, like the Minneapolis clinics now face.

The News Tribune’s stories show the drug has killed nearly 400 Minnesotans in the last 10 years, that few patients complete methadone treatment and the cost to taxpayers for the treatment since 2005 has been about $43 million.