Olympia's sole treatment center that prescribes methadone for opioid addiction has announced that the Thurston County Commission has authorized an increase in the number of patients it is allowed to treat.
The authorized increase allows Evergreen Treatment Services' South Sound Clinic on Martin Way to increase its number of patients from 400 to 650, ETS Executive Director Molly Carney said.
Patients at the South Sound Clinic are commonly given prescribed methadone, or buprenorphine, to treat addiction to opioid-based prescription painkillers and heroin.
The growing number of people addicted to opioid-based prescription painkillers and heroin across the state, and nationwide is one reason ETS has sought an increase in the number of patients it is allowed to treat locally in Thurston County.
In Thurston County, police, prosecutors and treatment providers all have said that the recent proliferation of cheap heroin has increased the number of those addicted.
"This is not a problem we can ignore," Carney stated in an e-mail to The Olympian. "The Centers for Disease Control has labeled the nationwide opioid addiction problem a formal epidemic and the Department of Justice recognizes it as an 'urgent and growing public health crisis.' Our work as a treatment provider is only part of a broader set of prevention programs, treatment and recovery support efforts that need to be undertaken at all levels of society."
All patients at ETS clinics are required to engaged in counseling, drug screening and other medical treatment while they are engaging in "opioid replacement therapy" like prescribed methadone.
Carney stated in her email that "it will take us a while to safely admit these new additional patients but we do expect to completely fill the available slots. We don't have 250 immediately waiting, but we know that the need for services is there and expect people to contact us when they know we have the availability."
Joe Avalos, Thurston County's program manager for substance abuse prevention and treatment, said the increase in the number of patients allowed to receive treatment at ETS' South Sound Clinic is "a potential solution" to help combat addiction.
He said that the majority of new patients at the Sound Sound Clinic on Martin Way will be treated due to expanded Medicaid or by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
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