LEWISTON — A Mollison Way clinic designed to treat drug addiction with methadone quietly opened its doors last week.
Jennifer Minthorn, program director of the Merrimack River Medical Services clinic, said the facility has 43 patients, mostly Lewiston-Auburn residents who used to get their treatment at the Portland-branch of the clinic.
"That's really the state's priority, to get those folks in treatment moved up here because it saves money and transportation costs," Minthorn said. "But ultimately, the priority is to get people that need it into treatment. That's what we're trying to do now."
Both the Lewiston and Portland branches are operated by Massachusetts-based Community Substance Abuse Centers.
Councilors approved a business license for the treatment clinic in April, allowing it to rent space behind Sparetime Recreation, about 600 feet from the door of the Pediatric Associates clinic.
Lewiston's ordinance allows substance abuse treatment centers to be built as long as they are a minimum of 1,000 feet from churches, schools, parks or day care centers or facilities. It also limits them to certain zoning districts.
According to the City Council's April approval, the clinic must provide enough space to keep clients from lining up outside of its doors, monitor the exterior to make sure they don't linger and invite the city and neighbors in to view the facility within 90 days of opening.
The clinic needs to put an alarm on all emergency exits leading to shared space in the building, follow professional treatment protocols, limit the number of patients to 500 and provide copies of all federal and state licenses to the city clerk.
Crews had finished work modifying the space in August, but Minthorn said the center didn't receive all of its licenses from the state and federal governments until September. The clinic finally received approval from the state to begin charging MaineCare for patient treatment on Sept. 16. It opened its doors Sept. 19, but took its first patients on Sept. 20.
The clinic is open seven days per week. Monday through Friday, the clinic gives out doses to patients from 5:30-11:30 a.m. and provides counseling services until 1:30 p.m.
The clinic provides dosing to patients from 6 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sunday.
Minthorn said the clinic plans to invite the public to view the operation sometime in mid-October.
The clinic also must meet with the chief of police twice each year and come back annually for a city council review.