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Methadone clinic for downtown Everett discussed

EVERETT — City Council members had a few questions last week on allowing a methadone clinic into downtown: For starters, how would one operate? Would people lined up for treatment be waiting outside the door? Would a treatment clinic for opioid addicts cause people to loiter around the area?
City zoning rules currently allow for one methadone clinic. The proposed changes would not limit how many could locate downtown.
The topic is before the council as the last stop before a public hearing and possible approval at the Wednesday, Feb. 21 council meeting.
A city attorney’s advice weighed heavily on the planning commissioners’ recommendation in December to approve the zoning change.
The attorney’s office determined that the city cannot discriminate what kinds of clinics are allowed: Essentially, a doctor’s office should be treated the same as a methadone clinic. The other options commissioners considered were taking a more restrictive approach on clinics, or not allowing clinics on ground floor on downtown streets, planning director Allan Giffen said.
The nonprofit Therapeutic Health Services (THS) has been tugging at the city to let it open a center in downtown.
Last fall, a suboxone center opened on Colby Avenue. Suboxone and methadone are used for the same purpose, to wean off opioid addicts.
These clinics are not heroin injection sites. “That’s totally different,” Giffen said, and the city code wouldn’t allow one.
Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said she wasn’t surprised by a center wanting to site itself downtown; north Everett is seen as a center of the opioid epidemic.
“We’re on the right track on getting these clinics in our community so people can get treatment,” Stonecipher said.
Many downtown businesses are opposed to the idea altogether. The Downtown Everett Association (DEA), for one, is concerned there are already enough social services in the city core. It worries that a center for the county will bring addicts to downtown who get treatment and then spend the day loitering.
THS operates a methadone clinic at 9930 Evergreen Way near 100th Street, just north of Everett Mall Way, that treats 850 clients each month.
When addicts cannot get access to treatment, they may turn back to heroin, said Diane Claussen, a semi-retired mental health counselor.
Hampton Inn manager Melissa Springer said that she isn’t against treatment centers, but is concerned people meandering around a clinic downtown will harm business.
“Think carefully before you allow a clinic that could negatively impact our area,” she said, adding: “People are afraid to walk around” due to “fringe people who show up around methadone clinics.”

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