county effort acting on opioid crisis
From left to right: Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Mark Beatty,
County Executive Dave Somers and Sheriff Ty Trenary address the media at a press
conference for the opioid effort’s launch on Monday, Nov. 20.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Last week, county officials announced an action plan that targets the opioid epidemic that has had law enforcement and health officials more stressed and strained in the last few years.
Make a plan, call it to attention and enact part of the county’s emergency management plan to fight the opioid epidemic. That’s what the county announced last week in a large media press conference.
At the conference, snapshots of the county’s opioid issues that touch on crime, health and safety were highlighted and splashed on boards as they announced its new multi-agency action plan.
County Executive Dave Somers, with Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary
and Snohomish Health District
health officer Dr. Mark Beatty made statements announcing the collaboration of the agencies to create Opioid Response Multi-agency Coordination (MAC) Group.
A framework was also announced, with some remarks during a Question-and-Answer session with media personnel.
According to Somers, they have been developing the action plan since
From 2012 through 2016, the county has experienced a 14.5 percent of all opioid-related deaths in Washington state and had the fourth-highest rate of deaths per 100,000 people during that period.
Somers formally activated the county’s comprehensive emergency management plan on Nov. 20, the same day as
the press conference, to make an official move toward responding to the opioid epidemic from a partial emergency management plan angle.That means several other agencies within the county will be named to help out, such as Public Works and Engineering, Firefighting and EMS, emergency Management command, Mass care, Emergency Assistance, Housing and Human
Services, Logistics Management and Resource Support, Public Safety and Security, and External Affairs; along with a Joint Information System
(JIS) which will help get the word out, accurately, in a timely way to the public and other stakeholders.
A website is also live: www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com
The Opioid Response MAC Group will “focus on reducing the negative impacts opioids have on the heath, safety and quality of life of our communities,” a statement read, with seven goals the agencies
have agreed upon:
• Reduce opioid use and abuse
• Lessen the availability of opioids
• Reduce criminal activity associated with opioids
• Use data to detect,
monitor, evaluate and act
• Reduce collateral damage to the communities
• Provide information about the response in a timely and coordinated manner; and
• Ensure the availability of resource and efficiently and effectively support response efforts.
Somers, with County Council approval, enacted a directive to the emergency management program to get the ball rolling. The Opioid Response (MAC) Group will also invite cities, faith groups and nonprofits to join the action plan. Somers said he’s already made invitations to city mayors to join.
What will this all mean to the average county citizen who may not have ties to
the opioid epidemic and is simply living their life?
“We don’t know exactly what all the outcomes are going to be, but I can tell you that now we’re getting data, and we’re sharing data, We’re having hard conversations,” Trenary said. “I get questions all the time from people,
‘Sheriff, why are you saving these people? Why are you going out and deploying Naloxone? Aren’t you just
creating a problem?’
No, come out with me and see these people, and tell me that should be our response. …Letting people die isn’t the solution.”
The MAC group has set some benchmarks.
For example, it wants to sometime soon have distributed several locked pouches and safe storage for prescription medications, or made
“X” visits to local schools to educate students; or expand the clean needle exchange
program by a to-be-determined date.
“These are young people and old, those who have good jobs, and those who don’t,” Somers said. “All too often, people say ‘it hasn’t happened to anyone I know,’ but you’d be surprised. In the suburbs, or in a tight-knit rural community, many people suffer in silence. We only learn
about their addiction when they end up overdosed, or in jail. As a community, we must be compassionate.”
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