SEQUIM — One year after opening, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s Healing Clinic averages about 120 patients daily who receive treatment and support for opioid use disorder.
“(Opioid use is) on the rise in the community and across the nation,” said the clinic’s executive director, Dr. Molly Martin.
“Even if you don’t think it affects your friends or family, odds are there is somebody who it does affect that you care about, and we are here to help them.”
Martin spoke June 27 about the clinic staff’s efforts and answered business and community members’ questions at the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Sunland.
The clinic opened July 6, 2022, at 526 S. Ninth Ave. in Sequim. It employs 50 staff members and sees a growth rate of 10-15 new patients a month.
“It’s a very labor intensive-type clinic because we offer so many services under one roof,” Martin said.
Martin said later the clinic has no set capacity limit set so long as it has sufficient staff to accommodate patients.
About 65 percent of patients have stayed with the clinic, she said.
During the application process for the clinic, there were concerns about out-of-area residents using the services and causing crime, but Martin said 95 percent of patients live in Clallam County and 5 percent in Jefferson County, with men and women making up exactly half of patients each.
They range from younger than 18 to older than 65 with most in their 30s and 40s, Martin said, and many have experienced substance abuse since their 20s.
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain and Deputy Chief Mike Hill sit on various clinic committees.
She said there has not been an increase in crime related to the clinic.
“The clinic’s presence has not brought negative things to our community,” she said.
“It’s had a positive impact, absolutely.
“I don’t think people appreciate how bad it would be if there wasn’t that type of presence.”
Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, who serves on the clinic’s Community Advisory Community with Crain, said the “clinic is providing a service our community so desperately needs” in “the most responsible way.”
Opioid addicts often fuel their addiction through burglary and theft, he said, and most of Clallam’s crime is related to addiction.
“By effectively addressing addiction, crime goes down,” he said.
Martin said Clallam County saw a significant increase in substance abuse disorders and overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic, a large piece of that being fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Its use has “skyrocketed,” Martin said, because it’s inexpensive but has no quality control.
“One pill can kill. It’s absolutely true,” Martin said. “We have no control over the potency of one pill to another.”
At the clinic’s intake, she said about 95 percent of patients have fentanyl in their system.
“Fentanyl was developed by drug-dealing chemists who decided to make a product that’s more addictive,” Crain said. “They’re selling it dirt cheap and intentionally flooding markets; they’ve flooded our market.”
Martin said the best way to prevent overdoses with those with substance use disorders is to treat the disorder so “they aren’t driven to use the substances that are so dangerous.”
The clinic offers services Monday through Saturday and is open for intake Monday through Friday for anyone in Clallam and Jefferson counties with an opioid problem, Martin said. Intake takes about three hours and all treatment is voluntary.
Staff will focus on the most dangerous substance abuse issue and focus on the second and third depending on the need following a harm reduction model, she said.
Patients engage in some form of counseling, Martin said.
Wrap-around services are also available, such as primary care and dental care.
About 60 percent of patients receive door-to-door transportation to and from the clinic.
“It’s amazing to see the changes in our patients as they start to stabilize,” Martin said.
“It was like pulling teeth to get some folks on our vans by 11 in the morning. Now if we’re not at their house by 7 in the morning, they’re calling to figure out where we are.”
The clinic also offers a Child Watch program for up to three hours for each patient’s child/children from 6 weeks old to 12 years old.
Martin said research shows patients have more sustained sobriety with FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder than with quitting cold turkey.
Most patients at the Healing Clinic, a certified prescriber of methadone, take it for opioid-use disorder, she said.
Other clinics typically prescribe Suboxone, which doesn’t require the same certification, Martin told the Chamber of Commerce audience, but “it hasn’t worked, so often it’s why we switch to the stronger and in many cases more effective methadone.”
Martin said opioid withdrawal is severe and it feels like the worst stomach flu for several days or even weeks.
“For our patients, to stabilize them, we help them see what it’s like to live without fentanyl or other opiates in their body and they start to think more clearly and function more effectively,” she said.
One myth, Martin often hears, is they’re replacing one bad drug with another. But she said their medications are FDA approved and have been for many years.
“I can tell you first hand they work … patients don’t get high from the medicines we’re giving them,” she said.
“They feel normal. They feel they can function again in a way they did before they were using substances. Not in constant up and down and being in withdrawal.”
Martin said the clinic has a tentative plan to expand services to western Clallam County later this year as they continue to assess needs.
For Healing Clinic services, Martin encourages people to walk in, call 360-681-7755, or visit jamestownhealingclinic.org.
“We know from what we’ve been doing so far, recovery is possible,” Martin said. “And we are absolutely here to help. If there is anyone who needs our services, please tell them to seek us out.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.