Methadone clinic conversation from the one-time suitor

One of the voices I had hoped to have in the story about methadone clinic zoning the council will consider Wednesday was Ron Jackson, director of Evergreen Treatment Services. I called him and he called me back three times and we never connected. Jackson, you will recall, was the one who wanted to locate a treatment facility here, at the request of the Kitsap County Health District and with the blessing of Mayor Patty Lent.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Jackson said when I mentioned that two of the zoning proposals the council will consider Wednesday would allow a methadone clinic to go in the Skookum Building, which was Jackson’s idea.

Since Bremerton made the location of methadone clinics the subject of a six-month moratorium, Jackson has looked at three other locations in other counties, but state funding, or more accurately the idea that state funding could be withdrawn, has him putting on hold any expansion plans. “I need to see what the Legislature is going to do with the budget, because the mission of the agency is to provide services regardless of someone’s ability to pay,” Jackson said.

Jackson also is not sure there is an appropriate building in the Bremerton areas the council will likely approve. He looked for property up in the freeway corridor area and near the hospital and did not find something he thought would work. Skookum was the right place, he said, but as it turned out it was missing a key ingredient, too. “The one characteristic that it didn’t have was neighborhood support,” Jackson said.

9 thoughts on “Methadone clinic conversation from the one-time suitor

  1. I’m sure there could be an appropriate building found. I don’t believe at the intersection of one of the streets leading to PSNS or entrance to the city was a good fit once you consider the traffic issues caused by the director’s other facility on Airport Way.

    The site needs to be selected carefully to ensure the patients can be served with all of their medical needs in addition to just the methadone clinic services. I don’t think that was ever considered.

    There were spaces available around the hospital area where patients could be best served and unfortunately I am not sure those were addressed. If they were, I would be interested in find out what was found unsuitable about all of those empty locations.

    I think there is a need for the clinic however I think the location needs to be carefully selected.

  2. “In a striking reversal in state policy that has gained momentum this week, doctors are receiving stark warnings that the painkilling drug methadone is riskier and more dangerous than previously believed — a drug of last resort because it’s unpredictable and poses a heightened risk of accidental death.”

    “Methadone’s death toll has hit the hardest among low-income patients. Medicaid recipients account for about 8 percent of Washington’s adult population but 48 percent of methadone fatalities.”

  3. @Robin,

    The Times series deals with methadone, but for a completely different application. The newspaper addressed prescription methadone prescribed for pain. Evergreen’s is administered to help people overcome addiction to opiates generally and its distribution methods do not pose the same problems addressed in the Times story. That isn’t to say clients never overdose, or that there are not other problems associated with the clinics. I asked a Times reporter to clarify if there was a distinction between pain prescription and addiction treatment and he did. The deaths reported are not from clinics like Evergreen. Hope that helps.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Sun

  4. It’s the same drug whether it’s being administered for pain or for the treatment of addiction. In my opinion, getting folks off one drug just to get them addicted to a government sanctioned drug is no answer to the problem.

    Now we have US Marines guarding the poppy fields in Afghanistan and the Senlis council talking about how we could be harvesting those poppies to produce “government approved” narcotics.

    The fact is that addicts can buy heroin off the street, but they have to get their methadone from a government approved vendor. Follow the money. I say just legalize heroin and cut out the middle man.

  5. A drug, is a drug. Regardless of application, methadone has serious risks. I’m surprised that we’re asking other reporters, for opinions. Reporters research stories, but the use and application of methadone is a medical question. The reality is the amount given to a patient, within a specified time. The more a drug is given, the chances of side effects increases.

    People don’t decided how much of a drug to take, they get a prescription. If they overdose, there are risks. Doctors make these decisions. Doctors, not reporters, should be giving us the answers on methadone.

  6. Note: I edited my response to make it more clear.


    You’re completely missing the point as to why I asked the reporter. The Times stories dealt with prescribing methadone for pain. My question to the reporter was related to how much the clinics like the one proposed for Bremerton were included in the problem they were reporting. His answer was that the clinics were not part of it at all. My question had nothing to do with the drug. It had everything to do with the focus of their reporting.

    A drug may be a drug, but how and why it is distributed can make a huge difference. Methadone at a clinic like Evergreen is distributed in a daily dose and it’s used for people trying to overcome addiction. Unless there is a mix-up in the dosage at the clinic, or the user takes something else away from the clinic, the overdose risk is low.

    The overdoses in the Times stories were for people getting prescriptions that they would then take home on their own, perhaps, and either take too many or sell it on the street. You can’t do that, not easily anyway, at Evergreen or other clinics like it.

    Even the neighbors who protested against the Evergreen clinic going into the Skookum building were mainly concerned about their neighborhood becoming a haven for loitering by people dealing with problems in a neighborhood that had a reputation for problems of its own. Some did argue against methadone clinics generally, but that wasn’t the biggest complaint.

    All that said, I’m not arguing whether methadone is an appropriate drug in any circumstance. I was making clear that the Times series was not addressing the drug as it is distributed at clinics.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Sun

  7. Steven:
    Thanks for your clarification and I do truely respect your writings.

    I openly admit that in the first couple weeks after the clinic was proposed in our neighborhood, I was one of the most vocally against.

    I think maybe the news outlets should investigate what actual death percentage is due to the clinics and what’s not. It would be more fair to the clinics and others. You said the percentage of clinic patient deaths is low. How do you know that fact? I’ve been closely studying the methadone subject for six months now, reading thousands of pages of studies and referance material and that fact hasn’t surfaced. Some say I have spent too much time on the subject however, I am trying to be fair, educated and assist our city in doing the right thing. That means patients and community, hopefully to the benefit of the city. Any clinics success will depend on both sides working together. Not an easy task with all the disinformation from both sides out there.

    I was one of those looking at the clinics when this was originally proposed at the Skookum building. What keeps getting downplayed is what happens around the area of the clinics. I showed you a few of those photo’s personally and it’s not pretty. I actually have witnessed an illegal hand to hand transaction in front of Evergreens Clinic, most amazingly while both I and they were standing on DSHS’s lawn across the street. So would that illegal transaction be attibuted to the clinic if someone died as a result? They dispensed it. If it were an alcohol license rather than a methadone license there could be harsh repercussions.

    I am not saying Bremerton shouldn’t have a clinic. Quite the opposite. I believe we need a clinic and that it should be properly located with assurances put in place that protect all involved, patients, neighbors, and our city. That is not what I saw when I went to look at Evergreen for myself randomly during dosing and “take away package” hours. Four trips to date in a effort to try and be objective. I didn’t take the press junket so I more saw the uncleaned up version rather than the press event.

    I think the city needs to move cautiously and that the county should also be onboard and helpful rather than stonewalling. I have also worked to try and get the county to step up to the plate of responsability as we move forward.

    I think the neighborhoods outburst originally was having more to do with shock and nobody talking with us before it hit the front page branding us as “Methadone Central” so to speak for the peninsula. Had the clinic or the city been more open with us as to the proposed location in our neighborhood things could have went much better. A little more proactive approach rather than quietly forcing things could of went long way in easing some of the concerns. It didn’t help that our mayor was publicly stating the police department was very supportive while we were also informed BPD had been told not to communicate with us. Later receiving the report through a public records request from the BPD to the mayor did not show such support.

    Our neighborhood took a real bashing through the Kitsap Sun and by our city officials while things were being done in a less than open manner. I am very grateful to the City Council for listening as they took a lot of heat also. We did closely listen to BPD when they said the initial opening downplayed to 20ish patients could be easily supported however when readdressed at the 350 patient proposed licensing level quickly stated BPD would need additional resources not available at the time. The next speaker spoke of the over 400 waiting for immediate treatment. So what was the real number, 20 or over 400?

    It’s not like this is the first methadone clinic to enter a small community and have the citizens outraged and surprised after it’s close to a done deal before anyone has discussed it with those surrounding and effected most. Evergreen should have done a much better job of easing the concerns of the neighborhood they were entering and proactively educating.

    Why hasn’t the Kitsap Sun done more coverage of the counties stonewalling clinics altogether. They know the ordinance isn’t compliant. I spoke at the commissioners meeting about 6 months ago to inform them of such with assurances it would be looked into. Even followed up with a commissioner the following week and was promised a review by the prosecutors office and answer within about 3 weeks. This last week I again reminded the Commissioner of the commitment and asked for status. The reply was they hope by next week. We’ll see.

    Where has the Sun’s coverage been of the counties part in this? The Kitsap Sun was real quick to call our neighborhood NIMBY as is the popular and normally first thing to do by the clinics and newspapers when anyone resist a clinic. The Sun was pretty short on follow through for the whole issue.

    Bottom line is we need a clinic, however it needs to be properly located close to medical services so that patients may blend in and be encouraged into proper health rather than become the poster children for people to point at. It also allows them to be close to emergency services IF something doesn’t go as planned.

    Steven, thanks for the coverage you’ve done. I hope you will continue following this through to it’s resolution and cover the county side also.

  8. @ Steve

    Yes, the drug is VERY dangerous. The clinic dispense large amounts in a controlled area. The thought is that the risk can be managed by monitoring and administration. Yes, people could overdose by self medicating and by selling individual pills.
    But that’s misdirection. Methadone remains a very dangerous drug, even if it’s a synthetic one.

    The fact that it has to be administered in a hospital clinic model, should illustrate the dangerous side of it. People die in hospitals all the time, and they do using methadone treatments. I’m not convinced te public needs to be near, or funding this treatment option.

    You have it backwards Steve. IF the drug wasn’t dangerous, there wouldn’t be a NEED to have the clinic.

  9. There were 5500 methadone related deaths in 2007.Methadone is a synthetic opiate that is used to treat pain and addiction for heroin and other opiates. When methadone is used for pain, doctors write the patient a prescription for various amounts (120 pills seem to be most common) When methadone is used for addiction patient must go to a clinic to receive dose of methadone until they earn take home privileges. Methadone represented less than 5% of prescribed opiates but was attributed to 1/3 of all opiate related deaths. A dose that is therapeutic for one person may be lethal to another person. Methadones unique properties make it unforgiving and sometimes lethal.
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