Hoquiam to host new drug treatment clinic

Downtown Hoquiam will soon be home to a new drug treatment clinic that will deal with addiction to heroin and other opioids. The clinic, run by Evergreen Treatment Center, is set to open in February or March of 2014.

Officials from the clinic presented their plan to the Hoquiam City Council Monday and were joined by Joan Brewster, director of the Grays Harbor County Public Health Department. Brewster spoke in favor of the clinic, calling the county’s heroin problem an “epidemic.”

“I’m here tonight to say that we have a very serious problem on the Harbor, and in the communities on the Harbor,” Brewster said.

She explained that Grays Harbor County has more drug-related arrests per 1,000 adults than the state average, and that the county saw a 447 percent increase in crime evidence testing positive for heroin between 2001 and 2011.

The clinic would serve up to 350 patients from all over Grays Harbor County. Brewster estimated there are about 2,000 people in the county currently addicted to an illegal drug.

Currently, 56 Medicaid patients have to travel to Olympia to receive treatment for their addictions, making it difficult to work, go to school or live normal lives, Brewster said. Having a local clinic could make the recovery process easier.

Molly Carney, executive director of Evergreen Treatment Center, said the clinic wouldn’t just treat addiction with medication. Doctors and counsellors would use methadone, a synthetic opioid used to suppress the desire for heroin, and other medications in conjunction with regular counselling in order to provide “wrap-around” treatment. She said the company’s Seattle clinic works closely with the University of Washington to stay up-to-date on the latest treatments.

Members of the community wouldn’t have to worry about loiterers or increased crime, Carney said. Evergreen Treatment Center has its own on-site security and keeps all medication in a locked safe.

“People come, they get their treatment and they leave quickly,” Carney said. “And it’s our job to make sure they do.”

The clinic’s leading doctor would be Dr. David Beck, who is certified in general internal medicine in addition to addiction medicine.

He’s also president of the Washington Society of Addiction Medicine.

Beck said he’ll tailor treatment for patients based on the severity of their addictions, as well as their lifestyles.

Based on how they respond to treatment, some patients could gradually be weaned off the medication. Others may have to visit the clinic daily for years.

“We’re going to do what’s the very best for them,” Beck said. “It just depends on how long the addiction has been there and how soon we get started.”