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Snohomish County agencies pool resources to tackle opioid abuse


March 14, 2018 | View PDF

Nearly one in six heroin deaths in 2016 Washington state occurred in Snohomish County and more than three quarters of Snohomish County overdoses in summer 2017 occurred in Everett and Marysville.

The Snohomish County Executive, the County Council, Sheriff’s Office and the Snohomish Health District are pooling their resources to help reduce opioid addiction in the area.

The majority of drug overdose deaths in Snohomish County are related to opioids. Snohomish County experienced 30 overdose deaths in 2017 related to opioids and the bulk of those deaths are related to heroin and prescription opioid overdose.

“We’re not going to solve this overnight,” said Heather Thomas, spokesperson for the Snohomish Health District.

A multi-agency coordination group formed in November with the hopes of reducing the impacts opioids have on the health, safety and quality of life in the area. Organizers have seven goals they want to achieve:

nReduce opioid misuse and abuse.

nLessen the availability of opioids.

nReduce criminal activity associated with opioids.

nUse data to detect, monitor, evaluate and act.

nReduce collateral damage to the communities.

nProvide information about the response in a timely and coordinated manner.

nEnsure the availability of resources that efficiently and effectively support response efforts.

The coordination group has information about opioid overdose available on a website at It provides some demographics of the people who are overdosing on opioids. From June 1, 2017, to Aug. 31, Snohomish County recorded 100 opioid overdose emergency room visits. The mean age of an overdosed person was 34.6, 51 percent were white, 10 were Native American and 3 were African American. More than two thirds received Medicaid while 17 percent lacked health insurance. In addition, 79 percent were unemployed and 22 percent were homeless. Most overdose cases occurred in Everett with 57, and then Marysville with 23.

The group is needed to better pool resources and find gaps in agency efforts, Thomas said.

Thomas said the group will have a similar incident command structure as the rescue efforts with the Oso mudslide in 2014. Snohomish County partially activated the county’s Emergency Coordination Center to support the effort to combat opioids, according to a resolution that created the multi-agency coordination group.

Since the group formed, a website and social media campaign were developed, and outreach started to local organizations such as school districts, churches and community groups.

Work is also underway to fill gaps. Snohomish County, the Snohomish Health District and the cities of Arlington and Marysville are implementing a law enforcement embedded social worker program. A social worker will accompany officers on visits to homeless camps to help provide resources for people wanting assistance.

The Snohomish Health District also provides needle disposal kits to businesses and organizations so people have a safe way to dispose of needles when they encounter them. The Health District is also developing a curriculum for school districts that helps educate about opioids, pain resiliency and other options for pain mitigation.

The Multi-Agency Coordination Group is also looking at holding community outreach events, bolster the group’s website and develop a network for treatment which will include nonprofits and faith-based organizations, Thomas said.

“We’re still getting up and running,” Thomas said.


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