The didgwálič Wellness Center

The didgwálič Wellness Center opened in November 2017.

ANACORTES — The Anacortes City Council on Monday approved a request from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, paving the way for the tribe to expand its wellness center.

The didgwálič Wellness Center focuses on addiction treatment services as well as primary care and mental health services.

The expansion will double the number of patients who can be seen by adding about 21,000 square feet of space to the north side of the existing clinic, facility CEO John Stephens said.

He said the center, which opened in late 2017 and is funded entirely with tribal money, is at capacity serving 250 patients and currently has a 100-person wait list.

“We underprojected the need in the community and have reached capacity in the current building,” Stephens told to the council Monday.

Stephens said he hopes the expansion will be completed by October 2020, and construction should start within six to eight weeks once the city approves the tribe’s building permit.

“We’re very happy,” he said of the council’s decision. “The City Council expressed a lot of appreciation for what the tribe is doing here.”

Ahead of the vote, Councilman Anthony Young applauded the tribe’s work and vision on the issue of opioid addiction, thanking them for committing to help the entire community.

“This is one of the hardest things ... most communities are dealing with,” Young said.

About 80% of patients are nontribal, Stephens said.

Councilman Matt Miller supported the expansion, saying he hopes it will help the tribe eventually reduce demand for addiction treatment services.

“My hope is that this (facility) will be too big in a few years,” he said.

One of the primary goals of the expansion is to improve patients’ access to dental care, something Stephens said is severely lacking.

“Literally, 99% of the people seen in our facility have oral health needs, with little or no access (to care),” he said.

He expects to hire 30-40 employees to accommodate the additional patients and services.

The proposal includes a 260-square-foot bus shelter and an additional 50 parking spaces. Stephens said work on the parking expansion is already underway.

The proposal passed through the city Planning Commission on May 22 with unanimous approval.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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