King County To Expand Methadone Treatment 

King County To Expand Methadone Treatment 
Posted by FoM on January 04, 2000 at 10:27:50 PT
By Warren King, Seattle Times Medical Reporter 
Source: Seattle Times
Methadone treatment will be available for nearly 1,000 additional heroin addicts under a provision passed by the Metropolitan King County Council.The council, in a unanimous vote yesterday, took a major step toward dealing with the county's heroin-use problem by increasing the number of licensed methadone-treatment slots by more than 50 percent. 
"It's good news. We've made some progress in making this a clean, sober and safe community," said Councilman Greg Nickels, who also is chairman of the King County Board of Health.The health board strongly recommended the action last May after a record 144 heroin-related deaths were reported in King County during 1998. Only 108 deaths have been reported for 1999. But county health officials still consider local heroin use a public-health crisis.The number of annual deaths more than doubled during the 1990s. Health authorities worry about the spread of HIV and hepatitis C through dirty needles. More than 80 percent of King County addicts are infected with hepatitis C and about 4 percent carry the AIDS virus.Yesterday's legislation increases the number of licensed treatment slots from 2,100 to 3,150. Three privately run clinics now have 700 clients apiece.Health officials estimate there are 8,000 to 10,000 heroin users in King County. About 675 are now on the waiting list for treatment. Boosting public Medicaid funding for treatment would increase the demand to as many as 1,750, experts said."Frankly, I think passage of this ordinance is life-saving," said Larry Gossett, chairman of the council's Law, Justice and Human Services Committee, which recommended the action. Gossett also is a Board of Health member.An amendment to the new legislation by Councilman Chris Vance limits the new treatment slots to the three private clinics that now operate facilities in Seattle and King County: Evergreen Treatment Services, Therapeutic Health Services and Federal Way Clinic.Another amendment by Councilman Kent Pullen allows for exploring alternative treatments to methadone.Treatment with methadone, a heroin substitute, allows addicts to return to work and lead relatively normal lives.Tom Davies, 48, of Auburn told the council that taking methadone the past two years has enabled him to return to work as a furnace repairman, as well as become a more responsible father and husband for his family of five. Before getting treatment at the Federal Way Clinic, he said he worked only sporadically and often stole to support his $1,000-a-week habit."It's hard for me to understand why it should be so difficult for people to get treatment," he told the council, referring to some public opposition to increasing treatment."There's nothing really weird going on at the clinic. People come, people go. It looks like people going in and out of a 7-Eleven."A recent report by the state Department of Social and Health Services cited studies showing significant drops in crime and the use of other medical services as a result of methadone programs.The National Institutes of Health and the Office of National Drug Control Policy also have recommended methadone as a treatment for addicts.Meanwhile, the county Board of Health has asked state health officials to seek ways to allow private physicians to prescribe methadone. A bill allowing such distribution passed the state Senate last year but never was considered by the House.Warren King's phone message number is 206-464-2247. Published: January 4, 1999Copyright  2000 The Seattle Times CompanyRelated Article:Officials Consider Vast Expansion Of Methadone - 8/11/99 
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