Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, in Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, in Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Despite controversy, Lynnwood opioid treatment center opens its doors

For weeks, protesters have objected to the center opening near Little League fields and a Boys and Girls Club.

LYNNWOOD — An opioid treatment center owned by Acadia Health Care quietly opened its doors in Lynnwood at 6 a.m. Monday.

The Alderwood Boys and Girls Club opened at the same time, as usual, just around the corner. For weeks, parents protested the opening of the addiction treatment center due to its proximity to the Alderwood Little League Fields and the Boys and Girls Club, where hundreds of children play daily. The treatment center is set to dispense methadone, a synthetic opioid used to wean people off of heroin and opioids.

Blue hues had yet to surface in the pitch-black sky as cars filed into the Ryann Building parking lot. A security guard manned the front door, opening it as people approached. In the first 30 minutes, about 10 people entered the building.

Methadone is a highly controlled substance, and most of the 300 patients will need to pick up their dose at the Ryann Building daily between 6 and 11:30 a.m. If patients establish trust with the clinic, they can earn “take home privileges” and decrease their visits to as little as once per month.

Those opposed to the center voiced concerns about the safety of local children, the lack of transparency and the insufficient infrastructure to support such an influx of people: the narrow roads; limited parking, with only 54 spots at the Ryann Building; and the absence of public transport.

Supporters of the center stressed the importance of making strides to end the opioid epidemic, urging the community not to dehumanize people facing addiction.

“The opioid crisis and overdose crisis is worse than it has been with no signs of slowing,” said Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, chief science officer of the state Department of Health during a legislative presentation last week. “I interpret (the evidence) as we haven’t done enough. We need to do more.”

City Council members said they had no knowledge of the facility’s opening until Dec. 12, despite the city planning department working with Acadia Health Care since early 2022. Acadia held a public hearing on Dec. 29, but few heard about it due to the winter holiday. Council members suggested Acadia purposefully held the meeting then because people would be distracted by the winter holidays.

The Ryann Building is a medical facility that also houses Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics. Dr. David Buck opened Balance Epigenetic in 2016 and said he was blindsided by the methadone center — just as Lynnwood council members said they were.

City Council members unanimously came out against the center’s location. Council member George Hurst urged people to write letters to the state Department of Health.

Mayor Christine Frizzell issued a statement saying Acadia “should have implemented a more robust outreach strategy.” But ultimately, she offered well wishes.

“The opioid crisis continues to afflict our region, and our south Snohomish County communities have been some of the hardest hit,” Frizzell said. “We truly hope that Acadia is successful in providing therapeutic treatment to those in need and that they will work to inform and partner with our community members moving forward.”

In a 2016 Johns Hopkins study, research suggested there may actually be less serious crime near clinics than other community businesses. The study leader said “drug treatment centers pose no additional risk of violence.”A similar study in the National Library of Medicine found violent crime around drug treatment centers is less frequent than that of corner stores.

However, the study stated, “NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) syndrome has been repeatedly observed in the placement of drug treatment centers … — such as methadone clinics — as many believe that people in recovery are objectionable.”

On Jan. 3, about 80 people squeezed into the Lynnwood City Hall with picket signs, kicking off weeks of protests about the center. Council member Jim Smith called it their biggest meeting in 20 plus years.

At a protest on Jan. 16, speakers blamed Rep. Lauren Davis, Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health. Council member Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said the council had little power to stop the opening.

“There was a lack of transparency and accountability — not to mention the poor communication and engagement with the community,” Altamirano-Crosby said. “… It’s outrageous.”

Nick Wexler, the president of the Alderwood Little League club, said he’s concerned having a “vulnerable demogrpahic” so close to the treatment center. Upward of 400 kids use the fields daily from March to October.

”I do not believe that Acadia will be able to do enough to keep our children safe,” Wexler said. “We as an organization will need to explore our related options to keep the children safe.”

Correction: This article was updated on Feb. 2, 2023 to add that a small percentage of patients can get approved for weekly or monthly doses.

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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