LYNNWOOD, Wash., January 2, 2023—At last Thursday evening’s public hearing by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) for a proposed opioid treatment center just 443 feet from the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club, every resident that spoke voiced concerns of transparency, safety, and both personal and commercial economic impacts to the area. The opioid treatment center is scheduled to open in late January of this year.
Of the 388 who registered for the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) public hearing scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on December 29, 2022, regarding the proposed Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center, DOH confirmed that 80 attended. Public comments were reserved to a three-minute time limit and, according to established rules for the event, there were no responses to questions or comments during the public hearing. DOH will post responses on its website within two weeks following the hearing.
OTPs are licensed by DOH and use medications for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to individuals diagnosed with OUD.
The proposed Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center at 2322 196th St SW, Suite 100, is an opioid treatment program managed by Acadia Healthcare, the largest Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) provider in the United States with over 145 clinics nationwide serving more than 60,000 patients in 32 states, Daniel Hymas, Regional Vice President at Acadia Healthcare shared during Thursday’s presentation.
However, overall, its website states that Acadia Healthcare operates a network of 246 behavioral healthcare facilities with approximately 10,800 beds in 39 states and Puerto Rico. With more than 22,500 employees serving approximately 70,000 patients daily. It specializes in behavioral health, substance abuse and addiction, eating disorders, methadone maintenance, and PTSD & Trauma.
Newsweek listed seven Acadia Healthcare facilities in its list of America’s Best Addiction Treatment Centers for 2022. During Thursday’s public hearing Acadia shared that 80% of its Comprehensive Treatment Center (CTC) patients test negative for illicit opioids after six months of treatment. However, there was no mention the value of this metric specifically for WA state patients. It is also unknown if this metric includes all patients that started the program or only those patients who continued with the program for at least six months.
Acadia currently serves 100 CTC patients at its Bothell facility located at 22026 20th Ave SE, Suite 101, that is relocating to its new proposed Lynnwood location.
“Snohomish County records show 18 percent of heroin-related deaths in Washington come from Snohomish County,” Larry Larsen, Senior Crisis Communications, Issues Management and Corporate Affairs Advisor for KWT Global, the public relations agency for Acadia Healthcare, wrote to the Lynnwood Times as to what factored into the provider’s decision for the Lynnwood location. “There were 198 opioid-related deaths in Snohomish County in 2021. This new location meets the needs of this community.”
Larsen explained to the Lynnwood Times that MAT when combined with counseling and community-based support is the recognized gold standard for OUD treatment.
“We are committed to helping those with OUD in the Lynnwood community manage and overcome their addictions,” Larsen said. “Our treatment programs are tailored to the individual with the goal of supporting them with the services they need to resume their lives.”
December 29th Public Hearing: Lynnwood City Council Comments
Three Lynnwood City Council members – George Hurst, Shannon Sessions, and Jim Smith – who attended the public hearing all shared that although they support the need of a treatment facility in Lynnwood, the location next to the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club is of concern.
“I think that the location itself, if the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club wasn’t right there probably is a good place for it, but not with the Boys & Girls Club there, that just doesn’t make sense to me,” Councilwoman Sessions said at the hearing.
She added, “I’m curious as to why Lynnwood leadership wasn’t taken into more consideration on this. It just sounds like this has already been decided and we need to have more information so that we can also help educate our community about what this is and isn’t.”
Council President Hurst shared during the hearing the timeline of events from the council’s perspective on what he called the lack of transparency in the process of the proposed opioid treatment center. According to Hurst, no information has been provided to the city council to “justify this OTP program in Lynnwood.”
Because an email received by the council at 11 a.m. from DOH on December 12, mentioned a public hearing scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on August 16, 2022, Council President Hurst set the notice aside to focus on that evening’s last council meeting of the year. According to Hurst, it wasn’t until days later that he received an updated email from DOH with the correct December 29, 2022, public hearing date.
On December 28, Nicole Smith-Mathews, Regional Director of Acadia Healthcare, contacted Hurst to arrange a January 3, 2023, meeting with the city council to discuss the proposed treatment center.
During Thursday’s public hearing, Hurst voiced his frustration, calling it a “check-the-box” process.
“The state will hold a public hearing, check,” Hurst said. “Acadia will meet with the council, check. A few stakeholders will be briefly contacted with a short visit or voicemail that is left, check, check. All happening after the tenant improvement for the OPT had been finished and ready for occupancy, a site a few hundred feet from the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club.”
Hurst then questioned why Acadia Healthcare would spend over $300,000 in remodeling the proposed suite in the building without a certainty of an opioid treatment center.
“This is the question that makes me believe that opinions and values of the city council and the residents and stakeholders around this site are of no importance to the State Department of Health,” Hurst opined. “The decision to locate at this site is a done deal. Acadia and the state have not provided the education justification needed for this site.”
Opioid Treatment Center City Permits and County Government
According to permits obtained by the Lynnwood Times from the Lynnwood Development & Business Services online portal, primary applicant, Donovan Colon of Permit Advisors, applied for a Tenant Improvement remodel on June 24, 2022, with the City of Lynnwood. The valuation of the remodel was recorded as $321,132 for “existing assembly occupancy converted to medical clinic.”
The permit description reads, “Existing HVAC equipment to remain with some new ductwork. Partial interior demolition, new walls, and finishes. New plumbing fixtures and casework also provided. Existing parking is adequate for new use.”
The previous occupant of the suite, Concerto Health of Washington, specialized in serving Medicare and Medicaid patients of underrepresented communities.
The owner of the multi-suite Lynnwood building of the proposed opioid treatment center is a Dr. Tien-Dat Nguyen, DDS, who also appears to own Dat Dental Family and Preventative Dentistry, one of the two tenants in the Lynnwood building. Dr. Tien-Dat Nguyen also owns a family dentistry by the name of Bothell Dental Care that is located across the street from Bothell City Hall.
Daniel Hymas, Regional Vice President at Acadia Healthcare, shared in a presentation during Thursday’s public hearing that their current clinic is relocating from Bothell to the 196th Street location in Lynnwood. Residents were also told during the public hearing by DOH that “no local comprehensive plan or development regulation may preclude the siting of an essential public facility,” pursuant to RCW 36.70A.200.
Because “substance abuse facilities” are considered essential public facilities, according to the RCW, such as airports, educational institutions, transportation hubs, and solid waste services, if the parcel is zoned for such use, it can lawfully be considered for licensing and certification by DOH.
Lynnwood Assistant City Administrator Julie Moore confirmed with the Lynnwood Times that permits for the opioid treatment center were applied for under “medical facility designation” and that “per our land use and zoning, a medical facility is an approved use for that location.”
The Snohomish Health District confirmed with the Lynnwood Times that jurisdiction in regard to opening the opioid facility rests with both the city and county governments and not the county’s health district.
During a staff report at its Administrative Session on December 13, Heidi Beazizo, Interim Chief of Staff/Senior Legislative Analyst, shared with the Snohomish County Council that she received a notice from the Department of Health of a proposed opioid treatment clinic in Lynnwood, and pursuant to RCW, is seeking comment no later than December 26, 2022, from the city and county in which the treatment program would be located.
The next day, December 14, during the Snohomish County Council’s General Legislative Session, councilmembers were informed that the DOH form for council comments also required input from the county council whether to restrict the capacity for the opioid program at the Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center to 350. It was shared that the County Executive’s Office reached out to the City of Lynnwood for comments on the “site appropriateness” of the location moving it from Bothell, in which the city had yet to respond.
Action from this meeting was to ask for an extension of DOH to December 28 for a response by the County.
At the County Council’s December 28th General Legislative Meeting, after some discussion by council, it was agreed to wait on providing DOH a response “pending further outreach” by the city of Lynnwood. Julie Moore, Assistant City Administrator for Lynnwood, shared with Beazizo, County Council Chief of Staff, on December 27, that the city was approved for an extension by DOH of additional outreach on the proposed opioid treatment center. The council agreed to remain neutral on the proposed location and that it will wait on the County’s Executive Office’s input on the site’s need.
The Lynnwood City Council will be holding a Work Session on January 3, 2023, for discussion of the proposed Opioid Treatment Program. Residents can attend in person at Lynnwood City Hall or online via Zoom or Livestream. However, no public comments will be allowed.
Resident can submit their concerns to any Lynnwood councilmember and the mayor before Tuesday’s meeting via email below:
- Mayor Christine Frizzell: cfrizzell@Lynnwoodwa.gov
- Council President George Hurst: GHurst@lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilman Vice President Jim Smith: jsmith@Lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilwoman Julieta Altamirano-Crosby: jcrosby@Lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilwoman Shannon Sessions: SSessions@lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilwoman Shirley Sutton: ssutton@Lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilman Patrick Decker: pdecker@Lynnwoodwa.gov
- Councilman Joshua Binda: jbinda@Lynnwoodwa.gov
Emails for Snohomish County Council members are as follows:
- Council Chair Megan Dunn: Megan.Dunn@co.snohomish.wa.us
- Council Vice Chair Jared Mead: Jared.Mead@co.snohomish.wa.us
- Councilman Sam Low: Sam.Low@co.snohomish.wa.us
- Councilman Nate Nehring: Nate.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Councilman Strom Peterson: email@example.com
December 29th Public Hearing: Residents Comments
None of the over 20 residents who spoke during the 88 minutes of public comment were in favor of the proposed location that will be 200 feet from the Alderwood Little League and 433 feet from the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club. Only one person, with a written comment, fully supported the proposed facility.
Ruth Cassidy, Unit Director of the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club, voiced concerned with the proposed location and feel this will add to an already complex existing public safety problem.
“Currently we have to drive our own personal vans home because of vandalism, and we have concern with drug deals going down in our parking lot pretty regularly and we are chasing people out,” Cassidy said.
She added, “What was it like in Bothell?”
Many residents questioned during the public hearing why Acadia is moving its facility from Bothell to Lynnwood. Every commentator has issue with the proposed location being next the safe space for kids and young adults.
In an email to Council President Hurst from Bill Tsoukalas, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County, he states, “I have not received any notification as the property owner.”
He continued, “Our club director Ruth Cassidy was notified by residents who were concerned.”
Tara Damschen, shared that the lack of transparency is “absolutely terrifying” if this is the process government is using to allow the facility to open next to the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club. Her overall statement echoed the sentiment of all commentors.
“What I’m concerned with is the lack of transparency,” Damschen said. “I am exceedingly concerned with the location next to the Boys & Girls Club.
“This isn’t a business location where most of the traffic happens within the city of Lynnwood. This is on the outskirts across the street from Snohomish County, where if something were to happen… and being a resident on that side, just across the street, it’s exceedingly concerning that we’re now relying on a separate jurisdiction for that protection.
“As I sit here and listen… I was frustrated by how we found out and wanted to make sure my comments were heard. But in listening to this and the fact that two City Council members have spoken and have said that they have heard no information about this. That they were given no notification. They were given no discussion. That it sounds like a done deal and the state or whoever has made this decision without any public knowledge or input is absolutely terrifying; and I am not sure how to fix this problem with government, if this is the way it was to operate because this is not a check and balance system. This is not how things should be happening.
“So, for the record…The Boys & Girls Club is next door, the Alderwood Little League is in the parking lot and is actually part of the facilities next door to the Lynnwood Boys & Girls Club that is used continually through Spring and Summer and late into the evenings and early mornings for games in which kids are out… there’s with only one or, you know, a few parents for coaching.
“What is that safety going to look like?”
Damschen also requested a “clear safety plan,” and wants to know if the local police have been involved in the discussion, and why is Acadia relocating from Bothell. She inquired if the location on the outskirts of the City is an attempt to “circumvent” the process.
The Lynnwood Times is awaiting a response from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office regarding any communication from the city or provider and the impact this would have to an already stretched law enforcement presence.
Residents and businessowners near the proposed site expressed to the Lynnwood Times concerns on the legality of the process.
Rep. Lauren Davis (D) supports the Lynnwood Opioid Treatment Center
State Representative Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline), one of six who represent parts of Lynnwood at the state Legislature, spoke during Thursday’s public hearing. She helped found the Washington Recovery Alliance, where she serves as the organization’s first Executive Director. Davis also serves on the Public Policy Committee for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Washington State and served for many years on King County’s Behavioral Health Advisory Board.
Davis played an important role in Lynnwood’s Community Recovery Center (CRC) concept that will be located next to the new Community Justice Center (CJC).
“I am incredibly excited about this program coming to our community,” Davis opened during Thursday’s public hearing.
She shared the medical benefits of methadone in helping patients overcome their addiction to fentanyl.
“I describe it as getting the person off of the rollercoaster,” Davis said.
She explained how methadone allows a person to reconnect into a productive and healthly routine for work and family.
“Methadone is an incredibly effective medication…So, I am really excited about having this in Lynnwood, particularly because of its proximity to both the forthcoming correctional facility and the Community Recovery Center, both of which will treat a very large number of individuals who have opioid use disorder,” Davis said.
Both the CRC and CJC are 1.5 miles (or a 32-minute walking distance) from the proposed opioid treatment facility. However, the proposed Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center is less than 500 feet from the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club.
Lynnwood Council Vice President Jim Smith was very critical of both Davis and of the city administration during Thursday’s public hearing.
“To be candid, I am kinda disappointed in Representative Lauren Davis, that she didn’t contact us if she knew about this,” Smith said. “I am very concerned the mayor and the administration here in the city of Lynnwood didn’t contact us. I don’t know if the mayor knew, but the administration did.”
Smith not only criticized the lack of transparency of the process, “but that it’s being snuck in here without the participation of the Lynnwood City Council.”
“We were not contacted about this,” Smith said. “To be doing this in the middle of the Christmas season is just craziness… If this is coming to Lynnwood, it’s going to be a magnet for drug users.”
Smith requested that the process be “delayed” at least six months for the council to get involved.
“How dare this organization come here to the city of Lynnwood and say, we don’t care what you guys think, we are going to allow everybody to speak, but we already made up our minds,” Smith opined. “I hope that is not the case. You have the opportunity to stop this!”
Opioid Treatment Program Licensing and Certification
DOH is only responsible for licensing, certifying, and regulating OTPs within the state of Washington. It does not own, operate, or provide funding to OTPs.
As explained to the Lynnwood Times by sources, any parcel zoned for a medical facility throughout Washington state can be converted into a substance abuse facility if the applicant for the space meets the following criteria:
- Obtain accreditation from one of four accrediting bodies: The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) (PDF), The Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), The Joint Commission, and Council on Accreditation (COA)
- Submit a completed behavioral health agency licensing application, a community relations plan, and fee.
- Submit policies and procedures demonstrating compliance with Chapter 246-341 WAC for review and approval.
- Obtain drug other controlled substance registration (PDF) from the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission
- Obtaining approval from the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- Respond to any concerns resulting from public comments received by submitting a community relations plan- concerns
The responsibility for a public hearing is that of DOH, according to its website.
“The department will hold a public hearing in the community where the facility is proposed to be located. Applicants must respond to any concerns resulting from public comments received by submitting a community relations plan- concerns,” DOH states on its website for Opioid Treatment Program Licensing and Certification steps.
When considering approval of an application, an applicant must:
- Certify only programs that will be sited in accordance with the appropriate county or city land use ordinance. However, please note that pursuant to RCW 36.70A.200, no local comprehensive plan or development regulation may preclude the siting of an essential public facility.
- Consider the size of the population in need of treatment, in the area in which the program would be located and certify only applicants whose programs meet the necessary treatment needs of that population.
- Consider the availability of other certified programs near the area in which the applicant proposes to locate the program.
- Consider the transportation systems that would provide services to the program and whether the system will provide reasonable opportunities to access the program for persons in need of treatment.
- Consider whether the applicant has, or has demonstrated in the past, the capability to provide the appropriate services to assist the persons who utilize the program in meeting the goals established by the Legislature in RCW 71.24.585. The department shall prioritize certification to applicants who have demonstrated such capability and are able to measure their success in meeting such outcomes.
When randomly selecting two of the five proposed opioid treatment programs listed on DOH’s website (the Lynnwood facility is included in the five) from 2021 to present, The Lynnwood Times discovered that both had building permits issued and construction completed months before any public hearing by DOH was held.
For Spokane Treatment Center located at 82 E. Francis Ave. in Spokane, the Tenant Improvement remodel permit was applied for on January 14, 2022, and approved on February 8, 2022. According to the permitting documents received by the Lynnwood Times, the $150,000 remodel was to convert an “existing dental clinic into a new Methadone Treatment Facility.”
The final building inspection was completed and approved on July 6, 2022. The public hearing for DOH was scheduled for 4:30 p.m., August 16, 2022, approximately six weeks after the remodel was complete or eight months after remodel permit applications were submitted to the city of Spokane.
For Bellingham Treatment Solutions 3240 Northwest Ave. in Bellingham, the Tenant Improvement remodel permit was applied for on January 25, 2021, by Acadia Healthcare and issued on March 26, 2021.
The final building inspection was completed, approved and a Certificate of Occupancy issued on June 18, 2021. The public hearing for DOH was scheduled for 4:30 p.m., August 4, 2021, approximately seven weeks after the remodel was complete or seven months after remodel permit applications were submitted to the city of Bellingham.
Tentative Timeline of Events
- June 24, 2022: Date the Tenant Improvement Building Remodel permit was requested by Acadia Healthcare with the city of Lynnwood. Permit #: TI-031558-2022.
- August 16, 2022: Originally dated Public Hearing for the proposed opioid treatment center in an email received four months later by Council President Hurst on December 12, 2022. The Lynnwood Times is awaiting confirmation if this August 16 notification was ever sent to stakeholders or why was the date changed. The Times is also confirming the date of application for Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center by the DOH – estimated Public Request fulfillment date is April 5, 2023.
- September 11, 2022: Date the 45-page drawing specifications document dated June 24, 2022 and marked “Acadia Healthcare-Treatment Center” approved with conditions by the city of Lynnwood.
- October 4, 2022: Date the Tenant Improvement Building Remodel permit, applied on June 24, 2022, by Acadia Healthcare, was approved by the city of Lynnwood.
- December 12, 2022: DOH notifies the Lynnwood Times at 9:39 a.m. of Public Hearing dated December 29, 2022, for proposed opioid treatment center in Lynnwood.
- December 12, 2022: City Council notified at 11 a.m. by DOH via email of Public Hearing dated August 16, 2022, for proposed opioid treatment center according to Council President Hurst.
- December 12, 2022: Last Lynnwood City Council meeting of the year.
- December 13, 2022: Lynnwood Times posts notification of Public Hearing dated December 29, 2022, for proposed opioid treatment center.
- December 13, 2022: Snohomish County Council notified during its Administrative Session on December 13, of a notice from the Department of Health of a proposed opioid treatment clinic in Lynnwood.
- December 14, 2022: During Snohomish County Council’s General Legislative Session, Councilmembers agreed to ask for an extension of DOH to December 28 for a response by the County.
- Between Dec 12 to Dec 20: DOH emails the correct dated notification to Council President Hurst with Public Hearing dated December 29, 2022, for proposed opioid treatment center.
- December 16, 2022: Final Building inspection passed and complete. Fire has not approved their final and are scheduled for 12-19-2022. After Fire has approved final, building okay to occupy and okay to issue Certificate of Occupancy.
- December 19, 2022: Fire Inspection passed with conditions.
- December 20, 2022: Hurst was told by DOH official that Acadia Healthcare was unaware they needed to connect with city of Lynnwood and will now do so.
- December 27, 2022: Julie Moore, Assistant City Administrator for Lynnwood, shared with Beazizo, County Council Chief of Staff, on December 27, that the city was approved for an extension by DOH of additional outreach on the proposed opioid treatment center.
- December 28, 2022: At its General Legislative Meeting, the Snohomish County Council agreed to wait on providing DOH a response “pending further outreach” by the city of Lynnwood.
- December 28, 2022: First time Hurst was contacted by Acadia Healthcare.
- December 29, 2022: Date of DOH public hearing of proposed opioid treatment center.
- January 3, 2023: Scheduled date the Lynnwood City Council will be holding a Work Session on January 3, 2023, for discussion of the proposed Opioid Treatment Program. Residents can attend in person at Lynnwood City Hall or online via Zoom or Livestream. However, no public comments will be allowed.