“A classic not-in-my backyard fight has erupted in the Pacific Northwest over a recovery and medical center for [Natives] in an area hit hard by addiction and overdose deaths.”D. Stone and A. MauchThe Washington Post
Excerpt:A Native American tribe plans to build an opioid treatment center, but neighbors have vowed to block it —ByDebbie C. Stone and Ally Mauch– The Washington Post
“One morning last year, Brent Simcosky stepped out of a pickup truck in the middle of a sprawling field off Highway 101, stood in grass that brushed his knees and imagined an oasis from the scourge of opioids.
The epidemic had struck particularly hard here in Clallam County, where generations of families from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe live along the waterways of the Salish Sea…Jamestown tribe leaders invested in schools, farming and aquaculture, spreading shells along the tidelands so that oysters could grow. Now, Simcosky had multimillion-dollar tribal and state commitments to finance a state-of-the art outpatient opioid treatment and healing center that would combine native practices with counseling, medical care and medications known to block the euphoric effects of opioids…In Washington, with 29 federally recognized tribes, Native Americans have died of opioid overdoses at a rate nearly three times higher than that of nonnatives. For heroin alone, it was four times higher, federal data shows. The tribe planned to offer treatment to residents — native and nonnative — across two counties…In May 2019, the tribe bought the land. The purchase initially drew little attention in Sequim, population 7,000, a town of retirees, artisan shops and an annual lavender festival that brings flocks of tourists every summer.
But a group of local residents rallied to block the project, arguing that tiny Sequim was no place for a regional drug treatment center. When tribe leaders called a public meeting to present their plan, more than 1,000 people spilled into a steamy room at the civic center and onto hundreds of folding chairs set up outside.
Scores came from a newly formed group: Save Our Sequim, a name that became a rallying cry. Jodi Wilke, one of the founders of SOS, said the issue has never been about need, the importance of helping to root out addiction in the community. The problem, she said, is location.
SOS members worry a treatment facility would draw too many outsiders struggling with addiction into a small community without adequate law enforcement and social services. Tourism could falter. Housing prices could drop. Schools could quickly become overwhelmed, SOS members have argued.
The site itself, Wilke said, is too close to a neighborhood and senior housing…Jamestown tribe leaders have been careful to sidestep conversations about race even though supporters of the center point out that nearly all of their opponents appear to be nonnative.
Instead, tribe leaders have stressed that many communities have woefully inadequate resources for addiction treatment and that helping those with substance abuse disorder will ultimately strengthen Sequim and the surrounding region.
“We want to be sure that they understand,’ Allen, the tribe chairman, said of the center’s opponents. ‘We were basically born here before you guys ever showed up.’
The tribe’s public health officer pointed out that Clallam County had experienced a series of opioid overdoses and that, nationally, an average of 130 people die of opioid overdoses each day.”
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