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Lynnwood mama and papa bears protest opening of methadone clinic

LYNNWOOD, Wash., January 16, 2023—Roughly 70 parents, children and concerned community members forgo Saturday’s Wild Card game between the Seahawks and 49ers to voice their outrage to a proposed methadone clinic just 433 feet away from the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club and 200 feet from the Alderwood Little League in Lynnwood. Officially called the Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center, the proposed Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) is scheduled to open on January 30, according to Acadia Healthcare.

Saturday’s rally in front of proposed opioid treatment center was led by Vivian Dong, a Lynnwood “Mama Bear” of three and spokeswoman for Safe Lynnwood, a growing grassroots movement of approximately 600 residents opposing the location of the treatment facility near the local Boys & Girls Club.

 “I want to make it clear that our coalition supports treatment centers, our concern is the potential impact on the safety of the kids who will be playing baseball less than 200 feet away, as well as the potential increase in crime, homelessness, and traffic congestion in an area without adequate parking and local infrastructure support,” Dong told attendees.

“Acadia submitted an incomplete Community Relations Plan and violated DOH guidelines. The Department of Health should put this project on hold and reject Acadia’s OTP certification application,” Dong added.

Some of the many signs at Saturday’s Safe Lynnwood rally in front of the proposed methadone clinic. SOURCE: Lynnwood Times.

She criticized the Washington Department of Health and Representative Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline) for not putting “children before money,” and not putting “public safety before a mega billion corporation.” Dong called on Rep. Davis to “put the needs of the community before political agendas.”

Davis, who is advocating for the OTP, shared with the Lynnwood Times days earlier that she “wholeheartedly understand[s] the frustration of community members” and that this “acrimonious situation could’ve been prevented or lessened by improved communication.”

“I believe Acadia could have and should have done a much better job regarding outreach to neighbors, community organizations, law enforcement, and city electeds,” Davis told the Lynnwood Times. “Acadia has a significant amount of making up to do and I have shared this feedback with them directly.” 

Davis confirmed with the Lynnwood Times that she was not involved in relocating the Acadia Healthcare treatment center from Bothell to Lynnwood and was unaware of the facility’s opening until Councilman Hurst informed her in late December.

Four Lynnwood City Council members joined Saturday’s protest – Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, Shirley Sutton, Jim Smith, and Patrick Decker. Council President Shannon Session, who supports moving the clinic to a better location, told the Lynnwood Times that she had a conflict but did watch part of the protest on the Lynnwood Times livestream. Councilman Joshua Binda, who confirmed his attendance with Safe Lynnwood, did not show up to the rally.

Councilman George Hurst was also unable to attend but provided a statement to be read on his behalf.

Hurst sharply criticized the mayor’s leadership in failing “all the people of Lynnwood” and in her staff concealing the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy and business license during public testimony by city councilmembers.

Councilman Patrick Decker reading a statement from Councilman George Hurst on Saturday, January 14, 2023, in front of the proposed methadone clinic. SOURCE: Lynnwood Times.

“The City administration has failed to be part of what should have been a transparent process,” Hurst wrote a statement that was read on his behalf at Saturday’s rally. “On December 14, the Mayor told me that no one at the City knew about this proposed location for a methadone clinic. But the truth is, Acadia applied for City permits in June, started the remodel of the space in October and passed a final City inspection on December 16.

“For our January 3rd Council meeting I asked the Director of the City Development Business Services (DBS) to provide a complete timeline regarding this site. At that meeting he withheld the fact that a Lynnwood business license was given to Acadia on December 7th and that on December 19th a City Certificate of Occupation (COO) was given to Acadia.

“These last steps of City staff approval for Acadia’s methadone clinic were only revealed after I emailed the Director on January 10th and asked him specifically if there was a Certificate of Occupation and a business license.”

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell told the Lynnwood Times that she will not consider disciplinary action against Development & Business Services Director David Kleitsch nor any members of his staff for concealing the proposed opioid treatment facility from the public, the city council, and her office.

“Director Kleitsch and other employees did what was in their authority to do under the current code and based on the occupants claims to outreach, acted within their scope of work,” Mayor Frizzell replied in an email response to the Lynnwood Times inquiring if she will fire or ask for Dir. Kleitsch’s resignation. “There was not any abuse of power and no firings or resignations are warranted.”

Dr. David Buck, owner of Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics and a current tenet in the same building as the proposed methadone clinic, shared at the rally that he was “never informed or advised” by Dr. Tien-Dat Nguyen, owner of the building, and is concerned he may suffer financial damages if Acadia Healthcare is approved the license.

“How can this community accept the idea of a methadone treatment facility essentially right next an orthodontics practice that sees children,” Dr. Buck said. “I have a practice and if my child patients are somehow either threatened or annoyed or made to feel unsafe, I will lose my practice.”

Prior to protestors marching to the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club and then to the intersection of 196th Street and Alderwood Mall Parkway, Councilwoman Shirley Sutton thanked attendees for their support and called on demonstrators to remain steadfast.

“Sometimes it takes time to get things changed and that is what we are here for to see who is going to be on our side,” Sutton said. “I was raised in a segregated community, I know what drug does and I don’t want to see that to happen anywhere for any reason in terms of money… they want to get money.”

King County GOP Chair Mathew Patrick Thomas, who was involved in the successful halt of a planned 270-bed shelter in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID) last October, shared with the crowd the similarities in tactics between that project and the proposed methadone clinic in Lynnwood.

“They will have a project, they will punch this thing through at the last minute with minimal public input, and it is not the right way to engage the community,” Thomas said. “Just like you don’t put nitroglycerin next to fireworks, you don’t put kids next to drug addicts.”  

He added, “The one thing I am so encouraged about today, and seeing all of you, this is exactly how you stop behavior like this…this is exactly how you hold these people accountable!”

Acadia’s three-page single-spaced document responding to community concerns just two days earlier, addressed neighborhood security, patient volume, patient profiles, and site prospecting process. According to the document, Acadia will employ a “security guard immediately prior to, during, and immediately following operating hours to discourage loitering at the facility or surrounding areas.”

“I understand that our state and county is experiencing an opioid epidemic, and our community needs treatment options, but the process and manner during the Lynnwood location selection process shows that there was lack of transparency and accountability; not to mention the poor communication and engagement with the community by Acadia itself,” Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said at the rally. “It is outrageous that this facility is so close to the Boys & Girls Club.”

Rep. Davis will be meeting with Safe Lynnwood spokeswoman Vivian Dong on Wednesday to address residents’ concerns.

Just over half of the residents who live near the proposed methadone clinic that is located within Lynnwood city limits, reside within county jurisdiction. Dong told the Lynnwood Times that she and other residents will be attending the Snohomish County Council Administrative meeting on January 17, to plea for help.

Councilman Jim Smith addressing protestors on Saturday, January 14, 2023, in front of the proposed methadone clinic. SOURCE: Lynnwood Times.

Lynnwood Councilman Jim Smith on January 16, sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee asking of him to “freeze the approval” of the OTP until the council can “come up with solutions.”

Lynnwood mayor and the council will review a separate letter during its Work Session on Tuesday. According to the agenda, that letter will be sent to DOH regarding process issues.

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