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Beltrami County Board: Commissioners will discuss methadone clinic

The fate of a methadone clinic for drug addicts in downtown Bemidji will be discussed Tuesday by Beltrami County commissioners.

The Beltrami Health and Human Services Department is recommending that the county not renew a host county contract with Northern Lakes Clinic, which essentially would cut off public funds to the facility.

After about 25 people protested the recommendation at the Feb. 17 County Board meeting, board Chairman Jim Lucachick and Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks said they would meet with clinic staff to gain more information.

That meeting has been held, and Lucachick and Fairbanks, along with county staff, are expected to brief commissioners on that meeting during Tuesday's regular board meeting which begins at 5 p.m. in the County Administration Building.

"The overriding concern of county staff and the County Board has been to make sure that clients of Northern Lakes Clinic will still have access to treatment planning and options for chemical dependency treatment services," County Administrator Tony Murphy states in a memo to commissioners.

"A focus of the meeting with Northern Lakes Clinic was to discuss the needs of clients and make sure that any needed transition planning be completed in a timely manner for all clients, should the contract not be renewed," Murphy wrote.

County HHS staff has recommended not to renew the host country contract "in response to significant concerns and complaints related to the operations and business practices of the clinic," Murphy states in his memo.

By not renewing the host county contract, the clinic would not be able to obtain public funding through Beltrami County, but could seek a host county contract from another county, he wrote. "And the clinic could still accept private pay or insurance pay clients."

The clinic, which opened in June 2007, offers treatment for adults with addictions. It provides traditional outpatient programs as well as methadone maintenance programs for those addicted to opiates such as heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers. It's the only such methadone clinic in northern Minnesota outside of Duluth.

A number of people spoke Feb. 17 in favor of the clinic, which has 11 full-time and four part-time staff, along with four contracted employees, and an annual payroll of $450,000.

Also at the regular meeting, commissioners will discuss the renewal of a contract with the state Department of Corrections that has the county housing state inmates in the program that has inmates building houses and learning a building trade in the process. The contract would pay the county $55 a day for housing the inmates, up $1 from the current contract.

Commissioners will begin their 3 p.m. work session with a telephone conference call with Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, with a legislative update. They will then hear an update on personal care assistance services in Beltrami County and go over bids for 2009 forest development activities.

They will hear a report on federal economic stimulus and appropriations requests and report on the status of the determination of public ditch benefits on Consolidated Conservation Lands in the county.

The County Board's consent agenda includes county bills and warrant payment listing, approval of set-up liquor license renewals, acceptance of a government lease for office space in the historic Courthouse for the U.S. Federal Probation and Parole Office, and approval of appointment of Jeff Shadwell from District 5 to the County Parks and Trails Advisory Committee.

Also, commissioners will consider job evaluation ratings for a restructured chief surveyor/lead highway design technician and assistant county highway engineer, ratification of a union agreement with assistant county attorneys with a 2.75 percent pay increase the first year and 2.5 percent the second, and a memo of understanding with the city of Bemidji for shared technology services.

The consent agenda includes approval of 2009 forest development activities bids, a random drug testing contract with FirstLab for the County Highway Department and approval of a final pay voucher for a County Road 12 project.

Commissioners will be asked to approve contract amendments to a Consolidated Chemical Dependency Treatment Fund program and to approve a number of host county contracts for 2009.