Is it really fair that, for years, this nondescript building has been bashed as being a ‘legalized drug house, and ‘the source of problems on the MAX Light Rail line at NE 162nd Avenue’? Find out the amazing truth about what goes on behind these usually-closed doors, right here …
Yes, they do dispense a powerful pharmaceutical in this building at E. Burnside Street and NE 162nd Avenue. But, that’s not all that goes on inside.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The gray building E. Burnside Street and NE 162nd Avenue has been vilified for years, because drug addicts do come and go throughout the day.
Charges have been made that associate it with the many and varied criminal problems that occur in this section of the high-density Glenfair Neighborhood.
Open doors dispel myths
“We’re trying to lift the veil and dispel any mysteries about what we do here,” explained Pat Gold, the clinic director for Allied Health Services East at 16141 E. Burnside Street – at their first-ever open house, on May 19.
“We are a drug treatment program for people whose primary addiction is to opiates,” Gold told us. “But because of federal confidentiality regulations, we can’t have any visitors while our patients are here, to protect their confidentiality.”
Gold said that, although the clinic has been operating since 1999 in one form or another, they started meeting with neighbors and officials only last summer. “We’ve been working with Portland and Gresham police, Crime Prevention Specialists, and neighborhood associations to get to know one another better, and to talk about what we can do, as a group, to reduce crime in the vicinity of the clinic. It certainly is NOT to our benefit, to have crime around the clinic.”
Now a 16-year employee, Valerie Carr, LPN, illustrates how their locked, secure system dispenses methadone, and tracks the patients.
More than a ‘methadone parlor’
“The clinic provides medication-assisted treatment to about 400 patients a month,” Gold stated. The medication that assists the treatment is methadone, prescribed by medical director, Dr. Matilda Mingus. It allows the patients to stabilize, so they’re not in withdrawal when they stop using opiates.”
The bulk of their patients come in using heroin. “Many also come with addiction to pharmaceuticals like hydrocodone or OxyContin. The drug OxyContin has been in the news lately.
“The methadone reduces the craving for opiates,” explained Gold. “It allows their minds to clear up, so they can actually participate in treatment which includes group and individual counseling, like any other drug counseling program.”
Treatment meets goals
The clinic measures its success by enumerating those who have kicked their habit, and those who continue to stay off illegal drugs.
“Our ‘outcomes goal’ for this clinic is that 70% of the patients will be opiates-free after 60 days in treatment,” their directory states. “And that 70% will be completely drug-free at the end of a year. We normally meet those goals. When you consider that most of our patients have been using [drugs] for a long period of time, the fact they can get completely drug-free, and stable, is a very positive thing.”
Security Manager John Marinez, welcomes guests to their clinic at the open house – along with Kim Sanderson, Regional Director of CRC Health, and Pat Gold, Clinic Director of Allied Health Services East.
Beyond kicking the habit
As part of their program, Gold related, counselors refer patients to other community resources to help them get their lives back together.
“It could be a mental-health referral; it could be for housing. Most of them need jobs. We refer them to jobs-ready organizations that help them find employment. Our goal is not only to have them be drug-free, but also stable in the community, with housing, an income, and continuing support.”
More than just doling out methadone, the goal of this clinic is to help people who walk through these doors regain a productive role in society.
Efforts praised by neighbors, officials
“I learned quite a lot here today,” commented Tom Lewis, the Vice Chair of the Centennial Community Association.
“I learned how great the need is. After seeing this facility, and meeting these people that work here, it changes how you think about what’s going on behind the brick façade of this building,” Lewis said. “It’s not helpful when crime happens just outside their door [near the MAX Station], and they get blamed.”
Sergeant Marvin Madtson of the Gresham Police Department said he’s pleased at how responsive the management of the clinic has been to suggestions.
“They’ve installed chain-link fencing around the back lot, put in a gate, and installed security lighting,” declared Madtson. “This has reduced many of the problems we had, of people loitering after hours in the parking lot, and conducting criminal activity.”
Gold smiled when she heard the positive comments. “These improvements are part of a ‘Good Neighbor Agreement’ we’ve signed. Working with the neighborhood associations led us to hold an open house, so more people can come and get to know us. It’s been a very positive experience.”
For more information on this clinic, see their website: CLICK HERE.
© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News