SOS group speaks to legislators about MAT concerns

The group opposed to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed clinic makes their case

The community group Save Our Sequim, which organized in protest of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic by the Sequim Costco, offered their concerns about the prject to local legislators on Jan. 8. at the Sequim City Council chambers to offer a presentation to local state legislators Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) and state representatives Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) and Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) at the Sequim City Council chambers.

Prior to the presentation, Van De Wege noted the session would only be an opportunity for the legislators to listen and not hold any discussion.

That did not deter Jodi Wilke, the group’s leader, who specifically asked the legislators to withdraw their support for the clinic until a study on the clinic’s social impact on Sequim can be performed.

Wilke and other SOS members spoke about not trusting the statements made by tribal representatives about the clinic, the social and safety impacts on Sequim and the financial aspects of the clinic. One point they brought up repeatedly was that the tribe would be able to claim $455 in compensation as an “encounter fee” for each person who seeks treatment every day, totalling $141,960 a year for each client who is treated six days a week — a number they said was equivalent to three EMT salaries for the fire department.

Another point they brought up several times was a claim that despite the clinic being initially set up to treat up to 300 patients, SOS believes there aren’t 300 opioid addicts in Sequim. That means it is inevitable that the clinic will seek to “import” addicts from elsewhere in the state, they claimed.

Several SOS speakers said it doesn’t make sense to open a clinic in Sequim when several clinics already exist in Port Angeles, and area where they said there is a much greater need for such treatment.

Several of the SOS presenters, including Wilke and Robin Pangborn, who said she used to run a homeless shelter in Atlanta, referenced a book written by Rachel Greene Baldino in 2001 called “Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker’s Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic.” Baldino, a former social worker in Baltimore, wrote the book of her time working as a counselor in a methadone clinic. Her book Recommendations for changes to the treatment system.

Speaking after the meeting, Chapman did say that he would examine the information presented to them, but felt that getting directly involved is outside of his authority.

“Our job was to vote on the funding package that this clinic was part of,” Chapman said. “It was one of a number of similar projects included in that, and it passed almost unanimously, which I was proud of. But to step in more directly on a local matter like this isn’t really something I can do. There are records of the zoning process that happened, and the land is privately owned by the tribe.

“Any issues stemming from that would be up to city or county authorities to resolve.”

Van De Wege and Tharinger were not available for comment after the meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, Wilke said that she hoped the legislators would “show leadership” and “take this seriously.”

“I’m glad we’re finally being given an opportunity to be heard,” she added.

Wilke also expressed disappointment at the lack of feedback given by the legislators and the short turnaround SOS had to prepare their presentation, saying they only found out last Thursday that the meeting would be taking place. She also criticized the City of Sequim for not giving them earlier access to the city council chambers to set up their presentation.