Norwich methadone clinic hopes to reopen next week

Norwich — More than 500 methadone recipients in the Norwich area will be able to return here for daily treatments within weeks, as the renovated Root Center for Advanced Recovery clinic at 772 W. Thames St. prepares to reopen after it was closed for nearly a year due to structural defects.

About two dozen Root Center officials, local state legislators, representatives from local human services agencies and media toured the renovated substance abuse outpatient recovery facility Monday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. But while the facility received its certificate of occupancy from the city building department in late December, the clinic is awaiting final approval of its federal license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. An inspection is scheduled for Wednesday, Root Center President and CEO Steven Zuckerman said Monday.

If approved, the center next week will begin bringing back clients who have had to travel to New London or Willimantic for daily methadone treatment since last January, Zuckerman said. Clients will return in phases, starting with those who were receiving services in New London, which was a smaller clinic with longer wait times, Norwich Root Center medical director Dr. Leonard Lev said. The plan is to have all clients return to Norwich by the end of January, Lev said.

Once operating fully, the expanded Norwich facility will be able to offer services in the new Norwich facility that are already offered at Root Center's other locations in the state. Prior to the renovations, the Norwich building did not have the space for these services. Large new group meeting rooms will accommodate the new Intensive Outpatient Program, 3½-hour daily sessions five days a week. Day and evening sessions are planned to accommodate client's work schedules, Zuckerman said. Other locations typically have about 15 participants in these daily sessions, he said.

The expanded center also will be able to offer other forms of medication treatments for addiction that are now available at other Root Center locations.

In the future, the Norwich center will expand to offer services for adolescents and mental health treatment services.

“These are all things we were about to do anyway,” Zuckerman said, before the structural problems forced the building to close.

Contractors were renovating the second floor, which had been used for storage, when they discovered structural defects. Root Center officials brought in two structural engineers on Jan. 25, 2019, to assess the damage, and both recommended closing the building immediately. Center staff sent clients home with weekend supplies of medication and worked with local health and human services agencies to transition the more than 500 Norwich clients to either New London or Willimantic clinics.

The Cornerstone City Church provided a van to transport clients from the St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen, and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services provided a grant to pay for transportation. Norwich Human Services and St. Vincent provided bus tickets and taxi rides if necessary so clients wouldn’t miss critical treatment appointments.

Jill Corbin, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Place, said the agencies will continue to provide rides for clients for about a week after the Norwich center reopens to ensure the transition back to the Norwich facility runs smoothly.

State Sen. Cathy Osten said the Root Center’s Norwich expansion was aided by approval in last year’s state budget for an increase in state reimbursement rates for the center. Reimbursements had been based on “historic” levels and had not been adjusted over time. That left the Root Center with among the lowest state reimbursement levels in the state.

“We raised the level to the rate of other such organizations,” said Osten, co-chairwoman of the General Assembly Appropriations Committee, “bringing parity to this organization.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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