The Department of Health hosts a public hearing on a proposed Opioid Treatment Program in Port Angeles on Monday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Department of Health hosts a public hearing on a proposed Opioid Treatment Program in Port Angeles on Monday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

State considers license for Port Angeles opioid treatment program

BayMark plans to open within weeks on Chase Street

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Health heard from two people during a public hearing this week and is now considering granting a license that would allow BayMark to open an Outpatient Treatment Program in Port Angeles.

BayMark Health Services, the largest opioid-use disorder medicine-assisted treatment provider in North America, plans to open within the next few weeks at 716 S. Chase St., the site of the former Buzi Bee Daycare, which closed in 2017.

State staff told the few who attended the hearing that under state law there is a distinction between Opioid Treatment Programs and Office-Based Opioid Treatment, that difference being that Opioid Treatment Programs are also approved to distribute methadone.

There are currently 26 Opioid Treatment Programs in the state. The BayMark facility would be the first facility on the North Olympic Peninsula to offer daily dosing of methadone.

The next closest Opioid Treatment Programs are in Aberdeen, Tacoma, Seattle and Shoreline, forcing people who need that treatment to travel every day.

The clinic will provide counseling in individual and group settings, case management and dispensing of medications to treat opioid-use disorder.

A doctor will meet with patients to determine which medication — methadone, Suboxone or Vivitrol — is the best for the individual. While Suboxone and Vivitrol are available on the North Olympic Peninsula, this will be the first clinic to offer methadone.

A woman from Port Angeles, who asked not to be identified, told those who attended that she used to travel to Shoreline every day for her daily dose of methadone.

That required her leaving Port Angeles at about 3 a.m. every morning and she would often return exhausted late in the afternoon, because the program she needed didn’t exist in Port Angeles.

“It takes a great chunk out of your day,” she said. “How can you function? When do you sleep? When do you look for daycare? When do you look for a job? When do you go visit your family?”

“You’ve got no time to find those resources that people need desperately,” she said. “This methadone clinic is going to mean great things for our community. People don’t understand it, so they fear it.”

Methadone has helped her get off of heroin twice, she said. Each time she also has gotten off of methadone as well.

The first time helped her stay free of drugs for 17 years. She relapsed on heroin after dealing with pain, but eventually participated in another methadone program in Shoreline, she said.

She stayed on methadone for one year, but is now free from drugs, she said.

BayMark officials had hoped the clinic would open over the summer, but the opening has been delayed as the company secures the proper licenses.

Tom Schwalie, vice president of development for BayMark, said the Drug Enforcement Administration needs to finish its final approvals and that the company needs approval from the state Department of Health, and then the clinic can open.

“Hopefully that’ll get done in the next two weeks and hopefully we can open in mid-November,” Schwalie said Wednesday.

Schwalie said he is confident BayMark will see 150 patients within the first year, but doesn’t know what to expect after that.

“Everyone keeps asking us when are you opening,” Schwalie said. “It’s exciting for us. Hopefully we can get through the licensing process as quickly as possible. If we could, we would open tomorrow. We’re staffed and ready to go.”

According to officials with the state Department of Health, the agency has not yet received all of the documentation required to complete the application process.

“The timeline is dependent upon when we are able to analyze and process a complete application, taking all the elements to include public comment and the community outreach plan into consideration,” said Jessica Baggett, spokesperson for the Department of Health, in an email.

BayMark began looking into establishing a facility in Port Angeles when it signed a contract with the Salish Behavioral Health Organization in 2017. Under the contract, BayMark was to establish clinics in Port Angeles and Bremerton.

BayMark is still working to open a clinic in Bremerton.

Dr. Kate Weller of North Olympic Healthcare Network also provided public comment during the hearing, telling the state that the clinic is needed in Port Angeles.

She said that though Suboxone and Vivitrol are available at other clinics in the area, they aren’t always the right choice.

“There is no doubt in the science that medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard for opioid-use disorder treatment,” Weller said. “In my experience and in the literature, patients coming to programs like this are dedicated and motivated.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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