Sequim city, tribal officials discuss MAT clinic

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and city of Sequim have taken another step toward a daily-dose drug treatment clinic for opioid addicts living in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Tribal representatives and city staff got together on Oct. 31 for a pre-application meeting on the project, which will be built west of downtown Sequim.

Opponents have described the medicine-assisted treatment clinic proposed by the tribe as a “regional” clinic which will ruin Sequim. Among other aspects, members of Save Our Sequim have said that the clinic will serve clients from outside the two counties. The tribe has said that it is only for those living on the North Olympic Peninsula, i.e., Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The tribe’s engineer and architect met with city staff for about 75 minutes last week to discuss technical aspects of the project, Health Director Brent Simcosky said.

Simcosky declined to identify representatives of the engineering firm Coffman Engineers Inc. of Seattle and the architectural firm Rice Fergus Miller Inc. of Bremerton because of the vigorous, deep opposition from such groups as Save Our Sequim.

“They don’t want to be harassed,” Simcosky said.

The pre-application meeting for the design-review application was dominated by “mostly technical questions” on topics such as water and engineering aspects of the project, he said.

The clinic will be built at 526 and 521 S. Ninth Ave.

Simcosky said there were no questions — “none at all” — related to whether the tribe will be able to build the Healing Campus west of downtown Sequim near Costco that will include a treatment facility in a 15,000-square-foot building that could be expanded to about 25,000 square feet.

“I got the feeling that they thought it was pretty clear-cut,” he said of city officials.

City Community Development Director Barry Berezowsky did not return calls for comment.

City officials will get back to to the tribe with any additional concerns or requirements within 10 days, Simcosky said, adding the project will be subject to further public comment.

Simcosky said daily doses of methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol will be dispensed to opioid-use disorder patients in an environment where clients will wear identification badges.

The clinic will be staffed by three security personnel and monitored inside and out by 100 cameras, Simcosky said.

He said the tribe helped fund the outdoor camera system of a nearby business that will monitor the area as well, with any suspicious activity reported to Sequim police.

Simcosky said clients will have to verify that they live in Clallam County or Jefferson County to be accepted into the program, contrary, he said, to assertions by some opponents that addicts will be bused in from other areas.

Save Our Sequim chairperson Jodi Wilke referred to nonresidents using the facility at an anti-clinic rally Oct. 28, a repeated theme as well on the group’s website and Facebook page, which describes the clinic as a “regional” facility without county boundaries.

Opponents also have said the clinic will attract criminals and the homeless.

“Why should we ship in a whole bunch of people who are not going to be served?” Wilke said at the rally attended by about 200 people.

She called for a “rigorous and complete” public evaluation process.

She said there is no need for the facility because drug-treatment spaces are or will soon be available and said the project will threaten the health, safety and welfare of the Sequim community, comparing the clinic to a needle-exchange program, another drug treatment measure excoriated by opponents.

“Heaven knows how many needles do they find in the gutter over there in Port Angeles,” Wilke said at the rally.

Wilke did not return calls for comment.

Wilke, who had registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission as a 24th District state legislative candidate for the 2020 election, said in August that she is not running for office and was unaware she was a registered candidate.

PDC spokesperson Kim Bradford said in an email last week that a person who files a candidate registration and decides not to run does not need to file a withdrawal or notification with the PDC.

Candidates “can choose to tell us if they are discontinuing their campaign but they are not required to do so,” Bradford said in an email.

“They simply do not declare for office during the candidate filing period in May 2020, at which we will indicate that their candidacy has ended,” she said.

State funding for the project, which will include social-service referral services as Phase 1 of a two-phase project, was supported by Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Healthcare Hospital in the funding application submitted to lawmakers.

An in-patient behavioral health facility that has not yet been funded would include a management agreement with Olympic Medical Center to operate a psychiatric facility and potential agreements with Jefferson Healthcare and Forks Community Hospital.

Public health officers in both counties have said the clinic will complement existing services, Simcosky said.

“We actually talked to health care providers in Clallam and Jefferson counties,” he said.

Simcosky said the tribe could obtain a license to dispense daily doses of drugs to addicts at its Fifth Avenue clinic just like it will do at the MAT clinic without having to go through the city.

“We could operate right inside this building,” he said.

“We don’t see any issues with the city,” Simcosky said of the project. “We see issues with certain groups, but that’s on them.”