New clinic to target opioid epidemic

Muckleshoot Tribe’s We Care Clinic to provide treatment, counseling services in building off Auburn Way North

A dear friend, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter – someone whom others loved, needed – and mourn.

The cold fact is, every 20 minutes in the United States, at some place, a human being succumbs to opioid or heroin overdose.

In the grip of today’s national opioid epidemic, overdose deaths exceed gun and automobile-related deaths.

One in four people who receives an opioid prescription struggles to get off of it.

Over time, 250 million prescriptions have been written.

And although 12 of every 1,000 hospital admissions are attributable to an opioid issue, in Washington state capacity exists to take care of a mere two of those, an 83 percent capacity gap.

Last year, King County reported a 58 percent leap in the number of heroin-related deaths, the largest single increase in heroin-related deaths in 17 years.

This crisis has not spared the Muckleshoot Tribe; indeed, it’s hard to find a tribal member who has not lost someone or who doesn’t know of someone who has died, especially among the youth in that tightly-knit community.

Which is why several years ago the tribe put together on the reservation and has offered Native Americans ever since its We Care Clinics, one of the leading office-based, opioid treatment programs in the country, to confront the epidemic.

“We do this today, we do this now, we have expertise in this, we are recognized nationally for what we do with our opioid treatment in our clinics on the reservation,” Joe Olujic, representing We Care Clinics, told city leaders last week.

“We provide opioid treatment sessions for other tribes to come in and learn what we do. We have visitors come in all the time to understand how we run our clinics, and how we run our behavioral health programs, to understand how they link together and why they’re so effective, compared to just the typical treatment facility versus what we do, internally, today,” Olujic said.

Soon, building on the success of its tribal programs, the tribe will expand its services into Auburn proper, offering services not only to native people but for the first time to people in the broader community.

When the 11,990-square-foot We Care Daily Clinic at 3320 Auburn Way N. opens in the coming months, the Muckleshoot Tribe will offer there not “dose-and-go,” but medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which melds FDA-approved medication and extensive behavioral health counseling for individuals and groups.

“Today (regulations require) you to have a group session once a month; we plan on having a much more stringent program for our clients to assist them in their recovery and prove our success rating compared to our national averages,” Olujic said.

The goal is improved access, and clients will enjoy daily access to the clinic, which is easily reachable by car, on foot, or by public transportation.

“We see the people suffering from this addiction, see them in front of our grocery stores, on street corners, we see them at the mall, we see them throughout our community on a daily basis. This treatment process will help those people get back into the work force, off opioids, and not have that desire and need to have those opioids moving forward,” Olujic said.

The Muckleshoot Tribe is fully funding the clinic and working with project manager Indigenous Pact, which is helping with permitting and all other development related matters related to this expansion of services beyond tribal boundaries.