ARLINGTON – “Self-love is the first form of freedom.”
“Go on because you didn’t come this far just to get this far.”
“You can | End of the story.”
Those are some of the quotes lining the walls of a new 36-bed substance abuse treatment center opening in Arlington this month.
Executive Director Edmund Smith saw the need for the Holman Recovery Center while serving in Snohomish County’s drug court program.
“As drug court coordinator, my drug court team and I have struggled to get people into treatment,” said Smith, who is also in recovery. “The treatment centers were in eastern Washington. You are on the Kitsap Peninsula. You are far away. We say, ‘Why doesn’t Snohomish County have its own residential drug use disorder treatment program here that’s designed for Medicaid clients?’”
The facility is badly needed in Snohomish County, where drug overdoses continue at a rapid pace. According to forensic medicine, around 250 residents died of an overdose in 2019. In 2020, that number rose to 303. In 2021, it rose to 342. In a single month last summer, 36 overdose deaths were recorded.
Last year, fentanyl was responsible for the most overdoses, with 149 deaths related to the synthetic opioid, which is becoming more common nationwide. Methamphetamine accounted for 127, according to the county.
In the first month of 2022, over a dozen drug overdoses were reported in Snohomish County.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble filling that facility,” Smith said. “I hope it fills up quickly because it will fill the need. The need in the community is very great right now.”
The Smokey Point Center isn’t the only new facility serving residents with addiction problems. For example, last August, a 32-bed behavioral health and addiction treatment room opened at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett. Unlike the Denney Center, Holman is not set up to treat mental illness. It prioritizes substance abuse help but is not a detox facility.
Patients can be referred to the new facility in a variety of ways, whether from healthcare providers, drug courts, or others. They would stay with Holman for 21 to 28 days. During this time, they participated in meditations, counseling, and 12-step meetings, as with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. In these few weeks they have no access to mobile phones or televisions. Families can come on weekends.
From day one, staff will work with customers to find out what happens after they leave Holman. Questions include: Where will you live? How will you support yourself financially? How will you continue your treatment?
“Navigating social services can really feel like a maze,” said Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert.
Smith hopes the facility, which has 18 to 20 employees, will primarily serve Medicaid clients, but they will also purchase private insurance. And most will probably be from Snohomish County.
The plaza at Smokey Point Boulevard features a mural donated by the Everett Recovery Café. The Tulalip Tribes donated washers and dryers. Overlooking the Cascades, an outdoor area has a basketball court and could get badminton nets in the summer.
Named for Susan Holman, who helped addicts in Oak Harbor before her death in 2017, the center has been in the works for a number of years. The State Department of Commerce received a nearly $750,000 grant for the project, but fundraising remained difficult.
In a move that Smith believed made the center possible, Grandview Homes purchased the land and built the facility. Construction started in November 2020.
Smith hopes people there feel valued, something he didn’t get when he was being treated for his own addiction.
“The reason (I do) addiction medicine is to give these patients the understanding that they deserve the help, that this is a disease that should be treated as such,” said Dr. Tania Hernandez, the center’s medical director. “And that there is help and people who care.”
“People heal from addiction, people recover,” Smith added. “It’s not helpless.”
The facility is scheduled to open on Valentine’s Day.