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New methadone clinic discussed

Fri., Aug. 5, 2011

Company, DSHS say the county faces crisis of opiate addiction

Hundreds of people across Eastern Washington need urgent help to fight drug addiction, according to state health officials, and a California company with a sterling record of substance abuse treatment in Western Washington is poised to open a Spokane Valley methadone clinic in October.

It would be the second methadone clinic in the county. WCHS Inc., a division of CRC Health Group, said during a public hearing Thursday that it could potentially treat more than 300 patients at its clinic, 15812 E. Indiana Ave., across Sullivan Road from the Spokane Valley Mall.

Opiate addiction is menacing people across Washington state and ranks as the second-leading killer behind only heart disease, said Dave Cush, regional director for CRC. The company already operates four clinics in Western Washington.

“We’re in a public health crisis, and we need to do something,” said Deb Cummins, a certification policy manager for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. “And in Spokane County we have a real issue.”

The new methadone clinic would accept patients with insurance or those who pay out of pocket. It would not accept Medicaid patients.

Shawn Chalich, an attorney with offices in the same building as the proposed clinic, urged DSHS to reject the site.

The area is growing with new construction of offices, restaurants and hotels, and is unsuitable for a drug addiction clinic, where several hundred people would arrive daily to take methadone, receive counseling and undergo drug testing, Chalich said.

Spokane Valley’s cluster of medical buildings is centered around Valley Hospital and Medical Center, more than a mile away.

Cush said the clinic expects a patient base where 80 percent of the people have jobs.

“These are people who may be struggling with addiction, but they are holding it together, seeking help and participating in society,” he said.

In some communities methadone clinics spark fears that large gatherings of drug addicts leads to theft, narcotics dealing and violence.

Cush said that’s never been the case at CRC’s clinics.

Methadone, a prescription drug, is considered a last-resort treatment for addicts. Patients arrive at the clinic daily for their dose, which dulls their drug craving.

Some addicts and pain patients receive methadone prescriptions from their doctors. State health officials contend this is where most methadone abuse occurs.

Spokane’s only methadone clinic now is at the Spokane Regional Health District in downtown Spokane. It treats about 470 people, including many on Medicaid. The average cost of methadone treatments is about $219 a month and patients remain on the drug often for longer than a year.


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