Think About It: Keep in, not out

“It will destroy the character of our small town!”

“It will bring more traffic onto our streets!”

“We will never be the same!”

Sound familiar? In the early 2000s, the Sequim City Council heard howls of protests from people who objected to locating big box stores like Walmart and Costco in the city of Sequim.

“It will just bring in other big box stores!”

“Downtown businesses will suffer!”

“Farmlands will disappear!”

I happened to be the person from the Chamber of Commerce who moderated a town hall-like event that featured the city manager and, if I remember correctly, someone related to the development of big box stores. An armed police officer stood at the door as people entered and stayed until it became apparent there wasn’t going to be an incident.

Fast forward to present day when we happily patronize our local big box stores. The west end of Washington Street is lined by big and medium box stores including Costco, Home Depot, Walmart, Petco, Michaels and Office Depot surrounded by a cluster of smaller boxes that makes me think of little fishes hanging around big fishes.

Did the development change the traffic patterns and character of our town?

Of course it did. Some think for the better. Some think for the worse. I think the development made Sequim more desirable with the added convenience of shopping in town instead of traveling to Silverdale. Then there is the revenue generated into the city used to improve our town.

Sequim, the center of our world

At about the same time – and I do have a clearer memory of this because I was working in administration at OMC – OMC was developing a Sequim medical campus to provide space for specialty medical care services. The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe built a large facility to offer much needed primary care services. The plan also included expanding radiation oncology services into a full-service community cancer center. Part of the thinking was to provide the services in a central location that would allow access from Jefferson County for those services then not available in the county.

If for no other reason than convenient access and inter-county transportation, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, OMC and Jefferson Healthcare chose a location that has proven successful for big and small businesses, medical or not, for an eventual $20 million behavioral health center.

We also shouldn’t be surprised these providers of health services would partner again to bring needed services to Sequim.

What is a surprise, at least to me, is that a group of residents is highly alarmed by the prospect and are voicing concerns similar to those raised about big box stores years ago plus forecasting increased crime, homelessness, people lying in the streets and child predators among other fears caused by the presence of drug addicts.

The fears around the Phase 1 medically assisted addiction treatment facility for opioid addicts is unfortunately being fueled by misinformation such as erroneously calling it a Regional Methadone Clinic and viewing it as a drug dispenser rather than treatment center that includes counseling, childcare, transportation and general support. The group claims that transportation assistance means “busing” addicts from outside the two counties.

Of late, strangely enough, the group is on record as saying its problem is not the service or even the addicts but the location. If that’s true, where does the group think a behavioral health center would work. I don’t think there is a recommendation from the group unless we count one suggestion, “put it on the reservation” which hopefully was tossed in the dustbin as soon as it was uttered.

It may be that the group’s co-founder who lives in Port Townsend thinks it should be closer to her town. Although, it doesn’t make since that she would want to make it more difficult for the working Jefferson County treatment patients and clients.

At least one person’s opinion was to put it in PA, the town with the biggest problem. I don’t recall the person recommending which neighborhood has a lot big enough that is surrounded by non-residential activity and has ready access and transportation services.

Misplaced passion

Addiction is a complex medical, social and cultural problem. I have no idea how to ignore it. I cannot pretend it’s not there and not hurting the addict, the family and the community. It’s time we did more than exchange needles and pass out pills. I support a facility that exists to help people in our community by doing so much more.

I am far more concerned about the loss of medical services in Sequim. I would like to hear the same fervent, passionate voices advocating to keep services out of Sequim work as hard to keep existing medical services in Sequim.

I am a veteran in consulting in rural areas. We are extraordinarily lucky to have the services we have. Our protests should be around keeping the medical services we have in our beautiful small town which are at risk of relocating due to an administrative decision made by the current White House administration.

Tough luck that Sequim outpatient medical services were developed using well-established regulations in place for years. We were not involved in the decision to cut reimbursement by redefining what geographically counts as rural hospital-based for reimbursement purposes. Anyone ask you? Me neither.

The redefinition decision was made by one unelected official and supported by one elected official in the White House. Write them, call them, put signs in the front yard of the White House. Ask them to respect the people. Ask them to keep our medical services in Sequim.

Ask or, better yet, demand they save our Sequim.

Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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