The number of overdoses in Snohomish County connected to opioids during this year’s seven-day count nearly doubled compared to last year’s count.
There were 57 this year compared to 37 last year, including 12 in one day.
Snohomish County Health Officer Mark Beatty says part of the reason for the increase in overdoses is because the county partnered with more agencies to track them. However, the crackdown on prescription opioids is also a driving factor.
“A lot of the effort has been focused on reducing the number of opioid prescriptions being given out,” Beatty said. “Our medical community and general public have been responding, however, for those struggling with opioid dependence, tighter guidelines on new opioid prescriptions has pushed them to try heroin. The seven-day data revealed that at least 61 percent of individuals overdosed on heroin.”
And then there’s the fentanyl factor.
“The overall data shows deaths due to fentanyl are increasing significantly. In the last month or so we’ve had patients who’ve survived an overdose,” Beatty said. “But the number of them that reported that they suspected they have taken counterfeit pills … has dramatically gone up.”
Overdose deaths were down to two this year. Last year there were three deaths during the count. Beatty says a big reason for that is the county and health districts are pushing to make the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone as widely available as possible.
Forty people who overdosed during the count were saved by Naloxone. That includes seven who were given Naloxone by friends, family, or bystanders who carry it.
Snohomish County Health Board Chair Adrienne Fraley-Monillas says that’s the overall goal — to help people escape addiction. For those who argue its a waste to use all of these resources to help people get off the streets and/or off drugs, she says people wouldn’t say that if they knew someone suffering from addiction.
“These are people’s [family members], and I think if people thought of it more that way they may not think lives were so dispensable,” she said.
Of the 57 people who overdosed during the count, 33 percent were homeless, which means the rest had some sort of shelter. County Executive Dave Somers says that is telling.
“Those two groups are very different in terms of their needs,” he said.
So what do they do with all this information from the seven-day count? Dr. Beatty says it’s really all about making sure they are using the resources they have in the right way.
That’s where the Multi-Agency Coordination Group comes in. It includes all the major agencies, non-profits, and other service providers that deal with the opioid crisis; coordinating their response.
“I think we’re making headway,” Beatty said. “It may not have been shown in the numbers but it takes time for those things to really start to show an impact.”
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