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October 27, 2016

Population Health Trust will hear ways to reduce opioid abuse Nov. 3

Young adults in Skagit County are dying from opioid use – and abuse – at a rate higher than the state average. It’s an epidemic – and that’s why the Population Health Trust, guided by the Skagit County Public Health department staff and 32 community partners, has formed an Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team (OWLT) to find solutions.

The OWLT has identified three key areas where collaboration among local partners can help address – and reduce – deaths associated with opioid abuse, and will present the findings to the Population Health Trust at its Nov. 3 meeting.
                                                            
“We wanted to ride the wave of momentum currently in place – both locally and nationally – to address the heroin epidemic,” said Skagit County Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “We’ve taken some steps – like needle exchange programs, and Narcan distribution and training, but we need to do more to keep people from dying.”

Preventing opioid misuse and abuse, treating opioid dependence, and preventing opioid overdoses are the three broad areas where the OWLT plans to focus its attention in the coming months. Improving outreach to those most at-risk, coordinating treatment , and educating the community and medical providers about overdoses will be the first steps.
                                                                                                                                                                                             
“The community knows that people are dying unnecessarily – and we need the community to be a part of the solution,” said David Jefferson, Skagit County Community Health Analyst and OWLT facilitator. “Opioid addiction carries a stigma, but the truth is that it can happen to anyone who starts taking too many prescription pain medications. We don’t want our young people dying; we want them to know there is community support and help.”

On October 7, 2016, Governor Inslee issued an executive order to combat the opioid crisis (http://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-launches-executive-order-combat-opioid-crisis). The order “brings together state agencies, local public health organizations, law enforcement, tribal governments, and other partners to act on opioids.” The OWLT group is already meeting the goals of the executive order and will be publishing a report with specific steps to address the problem in the coming weeks.  Locally, the University of Washington’s Center for Opioid Safety Education collaborated with the County’s OWLT to provide guidance as they researched the issue and set priorities.

Anyone wishing to attend the Nov. 3 PHT meeting can contact Mel Pedrosa for more information. To learn more about the OWLT, visit www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC or call 360-416-1500.