A proposed opioid treatment center near the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club took center stage once again when the Lynnwood City Council met Monday night.
After holding an executive session closed to the public, councilmembers announced they are considering possible litigation related to the treatment center. Meanwhile, city officials advised concerned residents to contact the Washington State Department of Health, which will make the final decision on whether or not the clinic will open as planned in late January.
Also on Monday night, the council – which added a special meeting in addition to its regular business meeting to discuss the city’s legislative agenda — elected Shannon Sessions as its new president and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby as vice president.
As they did during the Jan. 3 council meeting, numerous people filled Lynnwood City Council Chambers to offer public comment regarding the center, to be operated by Acadia Healthcare. The center, which provides methadone treatment, is currently in Bothell, but is set to be relocated to 2322 196th St. S.W. in Lynnwood. Acadia has already acquired a 10-year lease for the building, and the center is scheduled to open at the end of January.
Many residents said they were concerned about the location near the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club and a lack of transparency from Acadia and the Washington Department of Health, but some new issues were also highlighted by commenters. Many residents near the proposed clinic expressed doubt over whether the existing road infrastructure could handle the increased traffic and whether the 53-space parking lot in the facility would be sufficient for patients.
Several commenters also stated they didn’t trust Acadia Healthcare, alleging that the company overcharged and took advantage of people using addiction services and had once made the decision to eliminate the security guard at another health care facility, which resulted in staff being harmed.
“I just don’t understand, legally, what a security guard can do… Is their job just to push them off of their private property and into the surrounding community?” asked resident Jacob Fullen, in response to Acadia’s suggestion that they may hire a security guard.
Vivian Dong, organizer of Safe Lynnwood – a group formed to fight the treatment center location — spoke during the public comment periods at both of Monday night’s council meetings.
“They [Acadia] tried to sneak this clinic in and they got caught,” Dong said.”This is just another opportunity, as others pointed out, by Acadia and its executives to make profit off the most vulnerable people in the community while risking the safety of our kids.”
Mental health therapist Carrie Pilger, attending via Zoom, was the sole speaker to defend the clinic. Although she began by stating she was unfamiliar with Acadia as a company, she reinforced the idea that the people who benefited from treatment were already in the Lynnwood community as family and friends.
“Providing treatment doesn’t attract or bring anyone else into a community. It supports those members of our community that need it,” said Pilger.
The only commenter who didn’t speak about the opioid facility was Nick Coelho, a local business owner and five-year volunteer for the Lynnwood Parks & Recreation Board. Coelho asked that the councilmembers attend their liaison meetings as they are supposed to.
“Nothing is more demoralizing than seeing people who are paid to attend, not. So, as you get these new positions, these new liaison positions, I please ask that you attend them,” said Coelho, gesturing to the council.
During the business meeting that followed the special meeting, councilmembers elected Shannon Sessions to replace incumbent George Hurst as council president. Sessions – who voted for herself, also received the votes of Councilmembers Patrick Decker, Jim Smith and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby. Hurst – who also voted for himself — received votes from Councilmembers Shirley Sutton and Josh Binda. Sessions thanked Hurst for his hard work as council president.
Hurst ran for the council vice president role after Sessions was elected president. However, Altamirano-Crosby won the position by receiving the votes of Decker, Sessions, Smith and herself.
The council also discussed the appointment of council liaisons to city boards and commissions.The planning commission, the only board and commission required to have a council liaison, initially received no council volunteers. Decker stated that he could attend one meeting a month, adding that someone else would need to attend the other. After a prolonged silence, Binda volunteered and so the two councilmembers will share the position. Every other board and commission position was filled.
In other business, the council approved a new utility billing payment system for the city. The previous system, the Munis payment portal, did not support forms of payment other than credit cards or ACH transfers, and customers found the website challenging to use. The new system, selected from among eight other competitors based on its responsiveness, will be provided by i3-Milestone, LLC.
Mayor Christine Frizzell also acknowledged the hard work of city employees during the December snowstorms.
— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis