Jim Mattson is retiring after nearly 40 years as executive director of Pacific Treatment Alternatives. (Courtesy Jim Mattson)

Jim Mattson is retiring after nearly 40 years as executive director of Pacific Treatment Alternatives. (Courtesy Jim Mattson)

He spent 39 years helping addicted moms

Jim Mattson has retired as executive director of Pacific Treatment Alternatives.

Jim Mattson spent his career caring about the lives of people harmed by addiction.

He’s a licensed clinical psychologist and state-certified chemical dependency professional. As executive director of Pacific Treatment Alternatives, he didn’t work directly with clients. Since the late 1970s, though, his efforts have made a difference for mothers and their young children.

On Friday, the 69-year-old is retiring after 39 years with the Everett-based nonprofit. Mattson spearheaded a Pacific Treatment Alternatives program — long known as Safe Babies, Safe Moms — that served drug- or alcohol-affected women and their children, said Judith Krantz, a member of the agency’s board of directors.

“He has been an integral part of the fabric of Snohomish County,” Krantz said.

On Wednesday, Mattson recalled a case exemplifying the need for the agency’s mission. “A mom was found passed out, unconscious because of her drug use. Her baby was there, not being taken care of,” he said. The state’s Child Protective Services “was pretty upset about that.”

“That story probably takes place every day,” Mattson added.

As executive director, his job involved lobbying in the Legislature and applying for federal and state money.

Pacific Treatment Alternatives oversees two programs aimed at lessening the harm of substance abuse. The agency is one of 14 host sites statewide offering the Parent-Child Assistance Program, or PCAP, in partnership with the University of Washington.

Similar to the former Safe Babies, Safe Moms program, PCAP works through home visits and other efforts to help mothers who have abused alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. Growing from a federal grant awarded to UW researchers, the program is directed by Dr. Therese Grant, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“We can serve the mother and her child for three years. They’re all moms — no dads,” said Mattson, who lives in Marysville. “Mom has a chemical dependency. Some moms use while pregnant, although they may say they don’t. Some are referred by the courts, some by CPS.”

The services are all without cost to clients. If moms or mothers-to-be walk in the door, without referrals, their needs are assessed.

“We buy them things like car seats, breast pumps or down payments on apartments,” Mattson said.

Along with Parent-Child Assistance, Pacific Treatment Alternatives operates an AIDS Outreach Program. Exchanging dirty syringes for clean ones is part of what they do. AIDS Outreach also emphasizes education and drug treatment. The Snohomish Health District asked Pacific Treatment Alternatives to take on AIDS outreach 15 to 20 years ago, Mattson said.

The needle exchange was responsible for the agency’s move from Pacific Avenue to Hewitt Avenue, Mattson said. Complaints about the needle exchange from a nearby medical office prompted the move, he said.

Mattson came to Pacific Treatment Alternatives about a decade after its start. The agency had evolved from the hippie era.

In 1969, the year of Woodstock, a place called the Karma Clinic was on the third floor of a brick building on the corner of Hewitt and Pine Street. Doctors and social workers, seeing the effects of drug experimentation, were among the volunteers.

Mattson became the Karma Clinic’s director in the late 1970s. “When I first came, the place was stuck in the 1960s,” he told The Herald in 1994.

As the clinic grew, its name was changed to the Drug Abuse Council of Snohomish County. Around 1990, it became Pacific Treatment Alternatives, reflecting location and services for both drug and alcohol abuse.

Now with about a dozen employees, most of them case managers, Pacific Treatment Alternatives has 220 clients, Mattson said.

“When I started, we had very few clients — like five,” he said. “Over those 40 years, we got new funding and programs, then lost funding and programs. Now we’re small again. We used to have 800 clients.”

With his retirement, Mattson said Deborah Graham will serve as acting executive director. She has been a clinical supervisor at the agency.

“Occasionally we see previous clients — not many,” Mattson said. “I liked the work. It had a good purpose.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald@net.com.

Learn more

Pacific Treatment Alternatives oversees the Parent-Child Assistance Program for mothers and pregnant women affected by drugs or alcohol, and the AIDS Outreach Program. It’s at 1721 Hewitt Ave., second floor, Everett. Information: 425-259-7142, ext. 200

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