PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to waive a state restriction that prevents any methadone clinic from operating within 1,000 feet of a school. The waiver will allow Acadia Healthcare to provide professional medical treatment to recovering opioid addicts in the Hillsboro area.

Hillsboro’s first methadone clinic will be located at the intersection of Adams Avenue and Baseline Street — 950 feet away from St. Matthew Catholic School. While the Hillsboro clinic will be located within 1,000 feet of a school, the board stressed at Tuesday’s meeting that the treatment center falls only 50 feet outside the state mandate.

“I’m very supportive of the location,” Washington County Commissioner Jerry Willey said.

Washington County Commissioners unanimously approved a methadone clinic located 950 feet from St. Matthew Catholic School in Hillsboro on Sept. 19, 2023. (Washington County)

Data provided by the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services shows that there are more than 60 patients living in Hillsboro who currently have to commute 30 minutes to Tigard to receive methadone treatment. Washington County DHHS Director Mjere Simantel spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to summarize the issue, which was thoroughly discussed at a previous work session.

“The fentanyl crisis is really significant right now and having treatment options is really important for our residents,” Simantel said. “Methadone clinics have been shown to decrease opioid use, save health care costs and increase employment.”

The county was able to waive the state restriction using powers granted to local government officials in 2019 through Senate Bill 910. SB910 states that: “A county or a local public health authority, as defined in ORS 431.003, may waive the siting restrictions under this section to the extent necessary to remove unreasonable barriers to patients’ accessing medically necessary treatment at methadone clinics.”

Simantel said that there are currently 17 methadone clinics located around the state of Oregon. Seven of those clinics are located in Multnomah County. Washington County’s new Hillsboro clinic, she said, will help save lives.

“Methadone treatment has been shown to reduce relapse rates and 80% of residents test negative for illicit opioids after six months of treatment,” Simantel said. “[The] really significant data is: There’s a decrease in overdose deaths, so it literally saves lives.”

No community members spoke out against the clinic at Tuesday’s board meeting. With the new treatment facility, Washington County joins Multnomah, Marion and Lane Counties in offering more than one methadone clinic.