Fire officials add a 6-meter-tall radio antenna onto the radio mast on Aug. 20 to help with communications. Assistant Chief Dan Orr said the project has been in the works for a long time. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Fire officials add a 6-meter-tall radio antenna onto the radio mast on Aug. 20 to help with communications. Assistant Chief Dan Orr said the project has been in the works for a long time. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Fire District 3 neutral on treatment facility

‘Inappropriate’ to take stance, says fire chief

Leaders with Clallam County Fire District 3 said they won’t take a stance on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed Medication-Assisted Treatment facility now or later.

“We’ll never give a recommendation on whether or not they should have the facility or not. It’s not our place to say,” Fire Chief Ben Andrews said, in a Monday interview.

Fire commissioners unanimously backed his recommendation 3-0 at their regular meeting on Aug. 20. It reads: “Clallam County Fire District 3 (District) will not take a position of either opposing or supporting the planned Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) facility being built in Sequim.

“The District has been and will continue to perform research evaluating the potential impacts of the MAT facility that will affect, either positively or negatively, the District’s ability to provide emergency service to our community.”

On the recommendation, Andrews said in a statement to commissioners that he’s been approached to see if the fire district would support or oppose the facility.

“I believe that it is inappropriate for the district to take a position of either opposing or supporting the project,” Andrews wrote.

“I have been and will continue to perform research evaluating the potential impacts of the MAT facility that will affect, either positively or negatively, the District’s ability to provide emergency services to our community. Those findings will be brought to the City of Sequim and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe with recommendation(s) on how to mitigate those affects.”

Fire commissioner Mike Gawley agreed with Andrews and that commissioners need “to focus on the effects to the department.”

In the Monday interview, Andrews said he’s been approached at various meetings and the district has been asked on social media for a stance. He plans to meet with staff this week to share the reasoning behind the district’s statement.

At a 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 commissioners meeting or the Tuesday, Sept. 17 meeting, he plans to share his final report with potential impacts from the facility on the fire district’s call load.

Andrews said he’s struggled to find a similar facility in a city of comparable size with wrap-around services and shuttle services as Sequim’s proposed facility.

He said the Didgwalic Wellness Center in Anacortes is the most similar facility he can find so far in the state despite being outside of city limits.

Looking ahead, Andrews said they “can’t accurately predict the outcome” from a proposed facility, but that fire district leaders plan to “develop a mechanism to be able/mitigate problems that do arise.”

While the fire district won’t state a position on the MAT facility, Andrews has advocated for a hospital and/or emergency room in Sequim. He met in a round table discussion with representatives with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, the City of Sequim and many others in late May about Olympic Medical Center’s strategic planning. Andrews suggested OMC officials consider a hospital and/or an emergency room, as he and city officials recommended before.

However, OMC officials delayed two of three capital construction projects in Sequim after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced 60 percent cuts to Medicare reimbursements at off-site clinics like Sequim due to not being near a hospital.

OMC has cut $1.7 million from its 2019 budget and another $1.7 million from 2020 until funding issues are resolved.

Andrews said OMC officials committed to meet with fire district and city officials again in about six months and reengage in strategic planning about potential options in Sequim.

In previous stories, Andrews said by building a hospital or emergency room in Sequim, response time for patients and drivers would be reduced significantly.

For more information on Clallam County Fire District 3, visit ccfd3.org/ or call 360-683-4242.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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