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Stories pour at Everett Ideal Option opioid clinic’s big reveal

EVERETT — Stigma surrounding medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction took a backseat to life restoration for three hours. The aim of a panelist event last week is to usher in the new digs for the clinic Ideal Option south of downtown Everett, but also forge a new attitude on addiction treatment.
“Don’t apologize for being an addict or for (doing what you need to do) to move on with your life,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.
Ideal Option provides medication-assisted treatment, a process where physicians guide addiction recovery, treating the symptoms triggered by dependence on unregulated street drugs by substituting prescription medications such as
The event’s panelists included elected officials such as Larsen but also a group of patients from Ideal Option.
Curtis Letzkus had arrived at Ideal Option with heroin on hand, because he figured that treatment would be no more effective than the last five inpatient periods he tried in one year’s time. He was ready to die. 
Instead of continuing down a self destructive path, Letzkus had a comeback. Two-and-a-half years ago, he was on the streets. Now he has a lengthy sobriety and an active work life. His court obligations have all been either fulfilled, or wiped out by a drug court, in response to his successful recovery. He is open about his addicted past, and comfortable sharing it publicly. It helps ease the stigma, he says. And reaching out for spiritual guidance is a big part of coming back from darker times.
“I was given this opportunity to look at life as a gift,” he said. His message to the crowd was to consider the later stages of recovery. As people get past the medical road to getting clean, they move ahead to an arduous journey of rebuilding a broken life.
Letzkus’ turnaround is one Everett Police Sergeant John Zeka, a community officer in Everett, strives to see. Zeka is on the front lines, assisting homeless addicts to help, when they need it. Upon arrest, some have the option to taper themselves on Suboxone.
Approximately 1,400 individuals in Snohomish County are hospitalized annually because of opioids, according to a recently released report.
One panelist and patient, Amber, was being prescribed 240 10 milligram pills of Oxycodone every two weeks to treat pain from an injury when her path to addiction began. Within three years’ time, she became “very addicted” and when her first doctor was disciplined for overprescribing, she was routed to a new doctor. She could not get the doses she needed. “So, what do you do — you go to the street,” she said. She lost her kids, her home and her dignity before seeking recovery.
“You feel like you have nowhere to go,” she said. “You can’t even trust your own doctor.”
Addiction can separate people from their loved ones, due to lost employment and erratic behavior associated with substance use and abuse. Homelessness can also be a consequence of addiction, and that uprooted life can get in the way of recovery.
“If you’re living on the street, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll have a stable recovery,” said Daniel Goulette, a physician assistant at the Everett Ideal Option.
Suboxone is a drug used to curb the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and supporters say it helps speed the process to rebuilding a life with a job, a home, and a network of support. Some credit it with the ability to not just live a better life, but to be alive at all.
Often prescribed as a sublingual film, Suboxone is a replacement for methadone to ease the misery of withdrawal that can distract from everyday life; they can include depression, anxiety, shaking, sweating, nausea, abdominal pains and drug cravings.
He said the program meets people where they are: if they cannot travel due to lack of resources, Ideal Option connects with its partners in transportation, mental health assistance and other resources. Ideal Option also offers telemedicine, so patients can make one stop at the Everett location and complete more than one appointment. That lessens a travel burden, Goulette said, for a population that has trouble budgeting for expenses as little as bus fare.
Patients are sent to Ideal Option from hospitals, jails, community partners and some arrive through self-referral. Many are funded by Medicaid, due to low income or no income at all. It takes people with no insurance, too. The program has a built-in process to figure out how to fund someone.
“The community is pretty tight here. So, a lot of people know someone who is in recovery,” Goulette said.
The process is built around what recovering addicts said they need when ready for help: the turnaround for a requested appointment is often one day.
The integrated approach at Ideal Option is to remove obstacles, such as mental health issues, housing, and transportation, said Viktoriya Broyan, an administrator for Hub-and-Spoke, which transports clients.  
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin commended the panelists for their willingness to be open about their path to recovery. She led the teen shelter organization Cocoon House before being elected mayor, and saw both success in the road to recovery, and saw people who did not make it.
“They died or are living on the street,” Franklin said. “It’s important that we have treatment without delay, so the moment someone is ready to take that step to recovery, it’s here.” 
The success stories were, in part, a result of the help people received. “What I saw so often is what happens when we surround people with supportive services,” Franklin said. Often, they got better and found their way into positive constructive lives.
Of the 90 people at the open house event, some were there for their involvement in the program.
Betty Law was there but is not directly attached.
“I have a heart for it. Basically the bottom line is people don’t have a clear understanding of it. They think (addiction) is a choice,” Law said.
Ideal Option operates in 10 states, including Washington and Oregon.


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