Editorial Page, May 2024

Vashon Community Care Center

What if the new VCCC works as promised?

By Andy Valencia

Way too many people are dying from their addictions. The latest United States annual report on drug overdose deaths puts the count above 111,000, but that is only a small portion of the misery present throughout our society. The federal budget allocates more than $42 billion dollars for drug programs. But how does money turn into solutions?

Enter Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB). Their sudden appearance on Vashon with the purchase of the old VCCC site resulted in a lot of questions. Let’s be honest, in this year of 2024, most things that suddenly jump into your life are not good news. The real questions are: Will they be good neighbors? Will they help people?

SIHB is not a newcomer to the operation of recovery facilities. They ran the Thunderbird Treatment Center in Rainier Beach for decades and are still present in Pioneer Square and Lake City. They’ve been looking for a new site for a treatment center since 2020, when they closed the original Thunderbird.

The SIHB facility on Vashon won’t ever be accepting trauma cases directly from a 911 call. Delirium tremors, heroin overdoses, and withdrawal episodes will all continue to be handled over on the mainland. The people arriving at VCCC will be a good way along on the path to recovery. Some will even have families along, providing the parent an emotional anchor, and sparing them any worries of what might happen to their children in, say, the foster care system.

Imagine someone at this facility, recently emerged from the fog of acute addiction, but with lots of recovery work in front of them. The physical and mental health benefits of access to nature are beyond question, and SIHB’s new VCCC location can make this connection a seamless part of their reconnection with the world in general. Any of us can drive a few minutes and be walking in a forest, along a pond, or at a shoreline. In Seattle it’s mostly asphalt and buildings, with maybe a shuttle bus ride to places like Lincoln Park. Other than that, it’s just the Nature Channel.

Because VCCC backs right up against Land Trust trails, it’s trivial for patients in their earlier phases of treatment to be taken, accompanied, out for a walk. As a patient’s recovery progresses, they can range further out. A longer walk can reach a pond, and a short shuttle bus ride reaches KVI, Winghaven, Lisabeula, or even Point Robinson and our Troll. These things don’t automatically heal you, but they can be a powerful part of the healing process.

VCCC’s plan is to house about 60 people. Some aren’t ready to go out, some with supervision, still others on their own. Will SIHB send out somebody – or lose track of somebody – who then causes trouble? Almost certainly. But that’s already true; you may not be aware of just how many people are already living on the fringes of Vashon, some of them entirely on their own as they grapple with serious addictions. Each and every resident at VCCC will have professional treatment and monitoring; it’s hard to ask for a better starting point.

The history of our continent includes far too many dark stories of how the native peoples were treated, and the psychic marks are still very present; the native part of our population suffers from addiction at a rate several times higher than the overall population. There’s something inspiring about the SIHB bringing this new place of healing into existence. Although they won’t treat Native Americans exclusively, helping that population is one of their strengths.

People will come, and hopefully most of them will heal up. They might join our community, or they might move on – but come back to visit us with their family in the future because it’s a bright spot in their memory. This is only the beginning of this story, and there will be much more to say, but we can start with this: Why not let our beautiful Island and its unique community help those in need?

May 9, 2024

About Author

vandys Andy Valencia is a 20+ year islander, tech guy, father, writer