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Methodone treatment center may take a pass — City’s moratorium delay could send Evergreen clinic elsewhere

The executive director of a proposed Bremerton methadone-based opiate addiction treatment center Monday said his organization will likely pull plans for a $1 million treatment center, if the Bremerton City Council keeps in place a six-month moratorium holding back the facility.

“We need to move forward,” said Ron Jackson. “If you all don’t want us, just say so.”

Jackson joined Dr. Scott Lindquist, director of Health for Kitsap County Health District, and Dr. David Beck, medical director Kitsap Mental Health Services, Bremerton Police Chief Capt. Tom Wolfe and other experts in the field of treating opiate addicted patients in a panel discussion organized by Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent with a goal to dispel much of the hullaballou surrounding methadone clinic operations.

Lindquist provoked Jackson’s stark reply after a series of questions, offered by a public largely represented by Charleston district business owners, concerning the Evergreen Treatment Services plan remodel the Skookum building at 2600 Burwell St. into a methadone clinic and serve hundreds of addicts daily.

Also in attendance were council members from six of the city’s nine districts.

Jackson said if the city didn’t revoke the current moratorium by Aug. 24, when the ETS offer to buy the building expires, he will consider other cities that need and want tratment for their citizens. The council held a public hearing on the matter on Wednesday after deadline.

For a Bremerton clinic to work in the ETS model, the clinic must open in January. The methadone clinic would eventually serve up to 350 people from all corners of the county five or more days a week in the morning hours between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Nearly all clients would be on medicaid, most would be in treatment voluntarily, some would be homeless, and all would be held to a standard of conduct, according to Jackson.

Beck warned people off from only seeing the downside of methadone treatment. It transforms lives he said.

“It’s a lot of work to be in treatment,” Beck said.

‘No pink ponies’

Last month the city council voted to impose a moratorium on all applications to open a methadone clinic within the city.

The July 22 decision was expected to either be rescinded or reaffirmed Wednesday evening.

The only legal action that the council could take regarding ETS’s plans was a moratorium. State law prohibits the prohibiting of methadone treatment centers statewide, but allows counties and cities to make land use decisions that can affect clinic locations.

The panel took a series of questions regarding methadone treatment centers and crime. Questions about crime rate, homelessness rates, parking issues and driving abilities of patients after taking methadone.

Lindquist admitted his own “irrational cringe” over the idea of a methadone clinic, but that the treatment center  is needed by at least 450 people in Kitsap County. Keeping context proper, Lindquist said some problems, such as nuisance crimes, are found around two other ETS clinics in the state.

“No pink ponies and rainbows,” he said.

Across the state opiate addictions have risen in pace with the increasing prescriptions of pain medications. Kitsap County stands among three locations the state has identified with a high rate of abuse, Spokane and Southwest Washington are others.

Seventh in the nation for prescription opiate overdoses, Washington state needs to do better, said the chief medical director DSHS

“ [We ] need to get last on that list,” Jeff Thompson said.

Chris Larson, a local comedian, asked the panel why the clinic was not sited nearer the hospital?

“It’s something we don’t want to grow in our area,” he said of the Callow street business corridor surrounded by homes and at least one school.

Jackson said no site near Harrison was big enough for Evergreens needs.

The proposed methadone treatment center would put $400,000 building improvements into the $300,000 building, eventually employ 21 staff members with a $500,000 annual payroll and pay $12,000 in property tax, he said.

District #2, City Council member Cecil McConnell asked if a methadone clinic has ever been shut down for continued violations of nuisance laws?

Jackson said clinics do close, but for poor operations practices, not for being “poor neighbors.”

Bremerton Police Chief Capt. Tom Wolfe said the expected small uptick in nuisance crime can be handled by his current force and budget when the clinic opens to just a few clients at the beginning. Beyond that, as the clinic grows to its permitted capacity of 350, additional costs or measure might occur, he said.

“If a problem grows we would ask for more resources,” Wolf said.

Treatment professionals say most addicts take methadone just to feel normal and operate without side effects of intoxication due to close monitoring of dosage.

Jolene Sullivan, director of Children and Family Services for the Suquamish Tribe, said a huge problem with opiate addiction exists on the reservation and among tribal members.

The Suquamish Tribe wanted to host the ETS clinic there, but the reservation is not on a public transportation route and the full county would likely not get served, she said.

“I hope the council doesn’t wait to see death in your families,” she said.

Evergreen, a non profit with two Seattle locations and one in Olympia, was encouraged by the county health department to consider opening a treatment center for the hundreds of opiate addicted residents already in Kitsap County.

“Bremerton is the center of use,” Lindquist said.

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