SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - Snohomish County leaders say they refuse to abandon people suffering from opioid addiction, so on Monday they announced a multiagency effort to combat it on every level from prevention to treatment.
The announcement came during a joint news conference just prior to the first public hearing on a proposed safe injection site ban in the county.
The numbers are overwhelming.
“Twenty-five percent of the medical examiner’s caseload last month was overdose deaths -- 25 percent,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said at the meeting.
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But Somers and the other leaders of Snohomish County refuse to be overwhelmed.
“We’re not throwing up our hands and saying there’s nothing we can do,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary.
Instead, they’re holding hands; every agency in the county is combining forces to attack the opioid crisis by activating the Emergency Coordination Center.
“As far as we know, this has not been tried before,” Somers said.
What does that mean specifically?
“There’s been a lot of good things being done in Snohomish County. Unfortunately the right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing,” Trenary said.
So every agency is collecting and sharing data, and there’s a timeline and tangible goals.
For example, in 2018, the plan is to connect 120 people with detox. By March 2018 there will be a diversion center with 16 beds for those receiving opioid addiction treatment; by June 2018 law enforcement agencies will develop a system to track opioid related crimes.
“I think it’s pretty clear this is a disease and not just a moral failing on someone’s part,” Dr. Mark Beatty with the Snohomish Health District told reporters.
County leaders say the majority of addicts want to get better and belong in a treatment program, not a jail and not a safe injection clinic.
"As the elected sheriff. I am actively opposed to safe injection sites. I think it goes too far,” Trenary said.
Others in the county say they aren't shooting down the idea indefinitely, but agree it’s not part of the crisis plan.
“Our position, at least at the health district, is we’re not ready,” Beatty responded.
Snohomish County has already put a temporary ban on the injection sites. On Monday, it held the first of three public hearings on whether to make that ban permanent.
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