Opioid detox center looking for a home
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Therapeutic Health Services (THS), a nonprofit addiction treatment medical organization, was tasked by the county to find a
suitable place to site a new facility following the success of other THS locations in south Everett and Bellevue, but the treatment organization has been met with limited victory.
As of last week, THS was still in a “wait and see” mode for the city of Everett to finalize changing
its zoning code to allow a second opioid treatment facility. Currently, city code only allows for one. Prior to working with the city of Everett, THS had been seeking to site itself in either Snohomish or Marysville, where the second-largest opioid-addicted population is concentrated.
For Snohomish, city staff as well as Police and Fire were all on board, according to THS, to a site
within city limits. THS had negotiated with the owners of the train station-styled building at 2606 Bickford Avenue (across from Snohomish Station), but just before the contract could be signed, the
owner suddenly backed out and quit returning phone calls, said Jon Berkedal with THS.
The building owner was unable to be reached for comment for this story.
“That would have been an ideal site for our facility since it was an open floor plan, and there needs to be more access to treatment facilities in East County for people in need,” Berkedal said.
Berkedal, the former THS deputy director who now
contracts with THS to negotiate real estate and leases for new facilities, has been working for two years to get
another THS facility in Snohomish County.
Its south Everett facility currently treats 850 clients each month.
THS was looking at the former Trask Surgery Center owned by The Everett Clinic, located in downtown at Rucker and Pacific avenues, and had developed a space plan and were ready to go; when, just as in Snohomish, the owner backed out of the deal and the building was put under contract by an unknown buyer, Berkedal said. The Trask center closed in 2016 when The Everett Clinic consolidated surgery centers and put the Trask up for sale.
The location in north Everett would be the most ideal, Berkedal said, because that is where the highest concentration of opioid-related deaths in the state occur plus north Everett also contains several other social services, housing and government programs.
The nonprofit couldn’t buy a building itself, but Berkedal said “the money is there to get started.”
Since then, THS has been working with Everett and the Everett planning commission to get zoning changed to allow for another facility.
Technically, THS is an alternative treatment clinic, where those medications like methadone or suboxone are
offered to recovering opioid addicts. THS facilities also have on-site physicians, nurses, counselors and other employees offering methods to kicking an addiction; be it alcohol, opioids or other chemical dependencies.
Heroin is the biggest hitter, lately. THS representatives called the heroin epidemic the main culprit for needing more facilities such as what they offer.
“Part of our strategic plan is to site a facility close to other social services, which is why Everett makes sense,” said THS’s chief development and marketing officer Ken Schlegel. “This is our way of responding to the opioid epidemic and that is more than a local concern, it’s a national concern.”
When siting THS facilities, there are often concerns from locals who may be within the immediate area of a possible location.
“THS has always worked closely with the community when we’re siting a new facility,” Schlegel said. “It’s our goal to be a good neighbor and work closely with that community…It’s absolutely true and we have worked very hard. …to address as many of the community’s concerns as much as we can.”
Berkedal noted most of the facility’s operating hours are in the early morning before 9 a.m. when most other businesses are opening up.
The state requires that THS facilities, particularly those with opioid substitution treatment, need to be located on a bus line and have several bathrooms and good plumbing since they conduct random and supervised
drug and urine tests, to name a few.
Berkedal addressed the Everett planning commissioner candidly at its May 2 and June 20 meetings.
At the meetings, the public comments were somewhat supportive, while commissioners had concerns but still voiced support of a new facility, from looking at the meeting minutes.
“Our overall goal is to help people, in the most non-invasive or conflicting way for the communities,” Berekdal said. “We were asked by Snohomish County to site a new clinic, so it’s not like we discovered this epidemic or are helping it. We’re trying to respond to the need,”
Berkedal said of the negative stigma attached to opioid treatment facilities: “We’re doing the best we can to be responsible to the request from Snohomish County, we want to be good partners with the city of Everett — we don’t want to cause conflict and we’re almost being treated as bringing the problem to the city, when it’s already there. There’s already a need and we’re trying to return (addicts) to being functioning, taxpaying members of society.”
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