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Hoquiam addiction clinic draws more than 100 patients

By Amelia Dickson, The Daily World, Aberdeen, Wash.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 21--Since officially opening in mid-June, Evergreen Treatment Services has become one of the busier businesses in downtown Hoquiam, drawing 119 patients for opioid addiction treatment on a daily basis.

Clinic Director Doug Stenchever said he hadn't expected the patient load to grow so rapidly -- and the clinic started with 50 patients who had previously been treated at the Olympia clinic. About 40 additional patients are currently on the waiting list.

"We've had a deluge of people coming to see us," Stenchever said. "We're getting people in as fast as we can, but the word has gotten out faster than we can handle."

And despite initial concerns from Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers, the business has been running smoothly and there hasn't been an increase in criminal activity in the area.

"I am not aware of any issues over there whatsoever, other than a few issues with drivers not familiar with the one-way street," Myers wrote in an email.

Stenchever also runs the Olympia Evergreen Treatment Services clinic and was trained at one of the Seattle clinics. Most Seattle patients have some type of state-funded insurance -- Medicaid or Apple Health, he said. In Olympia, about 50 percent of patients are covered by state-funded insurance, and the rest are employed and use private insurance.

He said he wasn't sure what to expect from Grays Harbor.

"I think the tendency is that we're going to see a lot of people on Medicaid and Apple Health, at least early on," Stenchever said. "And I think those were the people who had the biggest need, and those are the people who are coming to us the quickest."

Treatment at Evergreen Treatment Services costs people $14 per day, and that amount covers medication, counseling, drug testing and any other costs. Charging for treatment by the day is the most cost-effective practice, he said. If a patient skips a visit, he or she is still charged for that appointment if they're paying in cash. But Medicaid won't cover the $14 for a missed appointment.

Before the opening of the Hoquaim clinic, about 50 patients were transported to the Olympia clinic and the cost was covered by the state.

"There were agencies around the county that didn't think that we could have a clinic here," Stenchever said. "They didn't think we had the resources, they didn't think we could get the counsellors, they didn't think we could get the medical staff. But we've showed that we can."

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And those same resources have allowed the clinic to grow.

The first step to becoming an Evergreen Treatment Services patient is to undergo a psychosocial assessment to determine whether the person has an addiction, Stenchever said. If they do, patients are scheduled for an appointment with the clinic's medical staff the following day to medically confirm that they're actually addicted.

He explained that these measures are necessary to make sure that drug seekers aren't allowed into the program. "They've got to show physical symptoms of being ill with withdrawal, blood pressure, eyes, that kind of thing," Stenchever said. "And you can't fake that."

New patients are then placed on a low dose of methadone and continue to meet with medical staff to find the correct dose, he said. They also meet with counsellors on a weekly basis for the first 90 days of treatments -- longer if they're still using heroin or other drugs.

Stenchever said he hopes to expand the clinic's treatment options in coming months to include Suboxone, another medication used for opioid replacement.

"We've had so many people coming in for the methodone we haven't even had time to think about the Suboxone," Stenchever said.

Opioid addiction is a "chronic condition," Stenchever said, so many patients will continue with some level of treatment throughout their lives.

"Opioid addiction is a long-term problem, so we get to work with them long-term and see the change," Stenchever said.

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(c)2014 The Daily World, Aberdeen, Wash.

Visit The Daily World, Aberdeen, Wash. at thedailyworld.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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