New clinic for opioid addiction and recovery in Bellingham

The Western Front

By Henry Stewart-Wood

Washington’s largest provider of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction recently opened its first clinic in Bellingham, expanding treatment options for people struggling to get sober.  

The Ideal Option clinic, located in the Samish neighborhood near the Lincoln Creek Park & Ride, provides low-barrier medication-assisted treatment to local residents struggling with opioid addiction. Its mission is to provide patients with the resources they need to get off of drugs.

“Ideal Option has been treating patients from Whatcom County in our Mount Vernon clinic since 2016,” Ideal Option’s Bellingham clinic provider, Dr. Martin Dubek, said. “In opening Bellingham, we saw an opportunity to reduce barriers to treatment for existing patients and a way to help more folks struggling with opioid use disorders in Whatcom County.” 

According to Dubek, people in Whatcom County struggling with opioid addiction who want to get sober now have easier access to treatment. 

To make their treatment accessible to the largest number of people, Ideal Option accepts Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. Doctors at Ideal Option treat patients by appointment and walk-ins, according to Ideal Option’s website. 

Medication-assisted treatment is one of the most effective treatments for drug addiction, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. Ideal Option uses drugs like buprenorphine, which lessens a person’s opioid withdrawal symptoms and naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids, to help patients get sober. 

“We help people ease the symptoms of withdrawal and overcome the cravings of opioids by prescribing medication like buprenorphine,” Dubek said. 

In addition to prescribing medication to people struggling with addiction, Ideal Option offers patients counseling, therapy and other forms of support throughout their treatment.

“Ideal Option also offers counseling and behavioral health treatment based on individual needs and maintains a referral network of healthcare providers to ensure patients are getting the care they need,” Dubek said. 

From 1999 to 2017, heroin and other opioids claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control. Starting in 2013, a sharp increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, swept across the U.S. 

Providing quick low-barrier solutions to people struggling with opioid addiction can be a matter of life and death according to Dubek and Ideal Option’s website. 

“This low-barrier approach has been recognized as the gold standard of addiction treatment and offers a way to restore stability and save lives,” Dubek said. 

Capt. Mark Brennan of Bellingham Fire Station 3, in contrast, has noticed a decrease in the number of opioid-related emergency calls his station receives. Brennan said he attributes this to a number of factors. 

The greater availability of Narcan, the life-saving drug that pulls people out of opioid overdoses, is one. Another, according to Brennan, is the increased use of stimulants such as methamphetamine in combination with heroin or other opioids. Brennan suspects combining stimulants with opioids can lessen the opioid’s depressant qualities, making it harder for opioid users to overdose. 

Despite the decrease, Fire Station 3 still receives about five calls a day for drug-related emergencies, according to Brennan. That is why Brennan said the opening of Ideal Option will have a positive effect on the people living in Whatcom County. 

“I think it will be a benefit to our community to have continued drug and alcohol treatments because people are suffering,” Brennan said. 

Ideal Option isn’t just for people who are currently using opioids and looking to get off them; the clinic works with patients who are maintaining their sobriety.

Nathan Howlett, 31, is a patient at Ideal Option and an example of its success. Howlett has been sober from opioids for five years and is now tapering off of the medication-assisted treatment program. 

“Ideal Option is a great place to go if you’re serious about recovery,” Howlett said. 

Howlett explained he first got himself off of opioids in Spokane at a different treatment center. Two years into his medication-assisted program, he missed an appointment and they kicked him out of the program entirely. That is when Howlett made the switch to Ideal Option. 

“Here if you miss an appointment they just reschedule,” Howlett said. 

Howlett appreciates Ideal Option’s patient-centered approach to treating addiction. For more information about Ideal Option, you can visit their website at https://idealoption.net/bellingham/ or call at (877) 522 1275.

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