Dave Upthegrove will oppose county money for proposed treatment center

Upthegrove2015by Jack Mayne

Because many Des Moines residents have concerns, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said he would oppose spending any county money to build the controversial Valley Cities treatment center.

Even so, he says he personally supports such facilities and believes they are necessary.

Upthegrove also noted that the county government has only the power over its own funds for the project, but no authority over city decisions on siting the treatment facility.

His letter to constituents was sent Tuesday (Sept. 8) and he said it was based on earlier resident’s email and telephone calls “expressing your concern about Valley City Counseling’s plans to locate a substance abuse and mental health treatment facility in the Woodmont neighborhood of Des Moines.”

Quality of life
Upthegrove said he is opposing county funds for the project because he lives in Des Moines and values “the quality of life in our community.”

But he reiterated the county government has no control over what the city officials of Des Moines do in this matter. In effect, the project can go forward if Valley Cities can come up with replacement funds.

“I have been briefed on the project, have visited the site, and have done my best to listen to diverse opinions in the community,” Upthegrove told residents. “I also have carefully examined what role, if any, King County government plays in this decision making process.

“King County has no authority over land use and permitting decisions within the City of Des Moines,” wrote Upthegrove. “It is my understanding that the City of Des Moines is being diligent in their review of the proposal, to the extent allowed by law and conditions of the permit.”

‘Power of the purse’
Upthegrove said the county has power only over “some capital funding” that it has contributed to the project proposed by the non-profit private treatment operation.

“It has become clear to me that a large number of people in the community I represent do not feel safe with the operation of a methadone clinic as part of this treatment facility.”

The councilmember is the chair of the King County Council Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, and member of the Budget Committee.

“I have decided to oppose any King County funding moving forward for this project until the site plan is amended to remove plans for the methadone clinic on this site.

“Another suitable site in South King County should be found. Today (Sept. 8), I notified Valley Cities Counseling and the relevant King County agencies of my decision. This should give the community leverage to help get the site plan amended as they negotiate a good neighbor agreement with the provider as part of the City permitting process.

Upthegrove said he was not speaking for the entire County Council.

Upthegrove said he was expressing “a statement of my opinion and intentions as one member of the King County Council and doesn’t reflect any action or decision on the part of county government as a whole,” he said in a separate email comment to The Waterland Blog.

“I wanted to make sure this was clear,” Upthegrove’s email said, “because I saw an email where it was characterized as King County having made some kind of decision, and that was untrue.”

Would enhance safety
Upthegrove said he thinks such a facility actually would enhance the Des Moines community.

“Now that I have taken this action, it is important to me to share some of my personal feelings,” Upthegrove wrote to constituents.

“While I recognize that many people do not feel safe with a methadone clinic in our neighborhood – and I respect the right for people to feel safe in their community – I personally believe this facility (including the methadone clinic) actually would improve safety and quality of life in our community. Social science data I have reviewed does not show an increase in crime around methadone clinics.”

He wrote “people in our community who are struggling with addiction or mental illness should not have to travel to Seattle to receive treatment. We have a huge need for opiate treatment in South King County.”

Have to go to Seattle
“Currently, about 500 people per day travel from South King County to Seattle for treatment,” Upthegrove wrote. “Imagine how many people in our community who are addicted to heroin or other opiates are not seeking treatment because of this geographic and transportation barrier.

“Without local treatment options, this population is more likely to engage in undesirable activities in Des Moines.

“Without treatment, more families will remain torn apart and more people will die. These are mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, friends and neighbors. Addiction and mental illness don’t discriminate based on class or race. Most families I know have been impacted by addiction or mental illness.”

Upthegrove said he looks forward to the time when mental illness and addiction “are not stigmatized, and we as a community embrace rather than fear treatment and support services in our own community.”

In a comment Tuesday night (Sept. 8) on the Waterland Blog, resident Susan White thanked the County Councilmember for his action:

“I want to thank King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove who has agreed to oppose county funding for this project until the methadone clinic is removed,” White wrote. “I just received a letter from him and just had a brief conversation with him to thank him for his leadership and understanding on what this means to all of us. I think as a community we can take a deep breath at least for right now and thank you Dave Upthegrove!!!”


14 Responses to “Dave Upthegrove will oppose county money for proposed treatment center”
  1. RedondoRick says:

    Dave, Thank you for seeing what many citizens of Des Moines have seen all along. I commend you for taking the action against a methadone clinic in this facility. However, I wholeheartedly disagree with your personnel feelings on believing that a methadone clinic, along with this facility, would improve safety and quality of life in our community. You don’t have to look to far to see that facility’s like these do NO good for the environment surrounding the area. I do support your feelings that we need these facility’s and that the demand is warranted. But to place such facility’s in the middle of neighborhoods with schools and Library’s is not the answer. Thank you for your actions against the methadone clinic. Lets together, work on a solution that meets all who are involved in the quality of life in Des Moines. Lets think of the safety of our children who would be effected the most. Sincerely, Redondorick…Rr

    • Tony says:

      RedondorRick : Action in the 11th hour is what I see as a complete lack of leadership.
      It’s sad that we in Kent, Federal Way and Des Moines area are letting him off the hook.

      • RedondoRick says:

        Not so fast Tony, who said were going to let these SOB’S off? There as much of the problem as anybody. I blame the city council for keeping this quite, the mayor for lying to us, our city manager, our politicians for allocating $5 Million to Ken Taylor on a facility I believe they new little about. Lots of blame to go around. Just remember when we vote again we know who NOT to vote for!…Rr

        • Lisa says:

          I do not have a problem with this facility in my community. Addiction is not a moral failing it’s a medical condition that needs to be treated with modern scientific medicine. We as a society need to see these people as patients who need our help and support and not some problem to be shipped off to some other community.

          • Des Moines Homeowner says:

            Lisa, Your comment is patronizing and sounds like a paid advertisement. You should have them over for dinner if you feel this strong about having addicts and the mentally ill in your neighborhood. Maybe they can walk your kid to and from the Woodmont school while they are at it? I’m also not interest in my property values declining. Maybe if I became a drug addict, you would see the other side of the argument?

          • BirchCreek says:

            Lisa, I have several points for you to consider. The organiation that wants to put in this facility is called Valley Cities of KENT! Why not put in in the Kent valley? Also, nobody is on some moral high horse here, we just feel that is it tremendously foolish to put this next to a school and library. Would you want this next door to your house? I have no problem with treatment of drug addicts, but working in a local emergency room I have seen enough back sliders on the methadone programs to know that I would not want them in a neighborhood area. Why can’t it be place in an industiral area like the one in Seattle on Airport Way. Why stick it next to a library??? Have you been to the Burien Library recently? It has become a home for substance abuse individuals. I would greatly prefer this not happen in Des Moines, would you?

  2. AB in DM says:

    The cognitive dissonance of Upthegrove is appalling:

    Upthegrove said he is opposing county funds for the project because he lives in Des Moines and values “the quality of life in our community.”

    Out of the other side of his mouth, he says:

    “I personally believe this facility (including the methadone clinic) actually would improve safety and quality of life in our community.”

    Elections have consequences people !

  3. Dave Upthegrove says:

    AB – I didn’t say I was helping make sure the methadone clinic gets moved because I value the quality of life in our community. The author of this blog article misquoted my constituent letter. I do value the quality of life in our community and said that in my letter, but never said that was the reason for my action. I am taking this action because I believe a large number of my constituents don’t feel safe with a methsdone clinic at that location.. I think we all value public safety and also value the ability of sick people to get help. These are not mutually exclusive values. And my point is that people with opiate addictions in our community who are not in treatment/recovery pose a significantly greater risk to public safety– and that improving local access to substance abuse and mental health treatment will make us a safer and healthier community in the long run.

    • egmiller says:

      Why can’t this facility be relocated near the SCORE facility? The jail sometimes takes people who truly need medical attention for addiction. Wouldn’t it make sense to put the facility especially since this is a DETOX in patient facility near to these services?

  4. Des Moines Homeowner says:

    So in other words, thanks for nothing, Upthegrove.

  5. Lisa says:

    If the end goal is to reduce the negative impact addiction has on our community and country then we as citizens should take the time to understand it. I believe understanding and education will make our community a better place. If being a compassionate person sounds like a commercial then I’m happy to be a commercial.

    If you are interested in understanding then this video is a good place to start:

  6. Dave Upthegrove says:

    Des Moines Homeowner- Would you rather I didn’t take steps to get the methadone clinic moved? Dave

    • Des Moines Homeowner says:

      Trust me Dave, I know of NO ONE but Lisa on this posting blog who wants this clinic in our neighborhood. Do you believe removing just the methadone facility is going to suffice in many of our minds? This is the talk of the town. Des Moines, a small bedroom community of 30k is going to absorb all of the South King County drug addicts and mentally ill. How fair does that sound? The crime rate will increase and we don’t have the money for policing and emergency let alone the danger it will impose on our community. I’m sure my property taxes will go up by forces out of my control for the policing this will need. I’m fed up with the decline of our once great suburb. The writing is on the wall. It is time to move.

  7. Todd says:

    ALL YOU on both sides of this issue are being pacified and lied to. You are being treated like children.
    You think that the city of Des Moines, The Mayor, council and Tony Piasecki have the power to do something. They can do nothing. This is a STATE funded and run projected championed by your State Senator Karen Keiser and State Representative Tina Orwall. These two elected officials are the ones that have brought this to city of Des Moines. They both live within Des Moines and with the City nearly bankrupt by Tony Piasecki they both see this as a positive thing for the city; such as 250 jobs.
    Complain all you want to City officials, they are taking the heat for Keiser and Orwall and Tony Piasecki mistakes. In the end it will be built. We elected Keiser and Orwall and if you are a parent with child that has addiction problem you should praise Keiser and Orwall in bringing this clinic close to home so that your addicted love one does not have travel to get treatment. This is good thing.

    On the other hand if you are a concerned parent with normal children in neighborhood and wish for this clinic to be built somewhere else, good luck, State Senator Karen Keiser allocated $5 million dollars of Washington State tax payer dollars to help with capital costs of this project. Keiser is not about to have it relocated anywhere else. (250 jobs make it so)
    Check out Keiser and Orwall news feeds from their own websites below they are taking credit and defending the project while Des Moines citizens think the Des Moines Mayor and council can do something about it. Simply put this is smoke and mirrors; citizens are blaming and complaining to wrong elected officials. Why is city of Des Moines Mayor, City Manager and council holding special meetings and willing to have the citizens’ vent on them? Simple they need the money and the city is broke and the Des Moines officials are not about to point fingers at the STATE coffers that Keiser and Orwall have influence over.
    The FIX is in and your elected officials know what is best for the city. Get a hold yourself concerned citizen the city nearly broke the easier decision is to build Woodmount Center rather than face layoffs and cut backs. The BIG BOYS; I mean BIG GILRLS, MS. Keiser and MS. Orwall control the purse.
    This is what happens when you let an unelected bureaucrat Tony Piasecki run and control your city.
    Tony Piasecki was appointed city manager of Des Moines in May of 2002, after serving as the city’s assistant city manager since 1996. MY GOD! Tony has had over 13 years to run city into the ground and Keiser and Orwall had to bail him out. The better question concerned citizens when is it, that you have had enough of Tony Piasecki running our town. Tell your council member Tony has got to go!!!
    Sen. Karen Keiser [email protected]
    Rep. Tina Orwall [email protected]

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