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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Moving forward on expert recommendations to confront the heroin and opioid epidemic

Summary

King County is moving forward on all eight recommendations presented by a task force of experts to confront the heroin and opioid epidemic. The eight recommendations focus on prevention, increasing access to treatment on demand, and reducing the number of fatal overdoses. The 40-member task force included experts from a wide range of disciplines, including public health, criminal justice, treatment providers, hospitals and schools

Story

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today announced they will move forward on the complete set of recommendations presented by a task force of experts they convened last year.

The eight recommendations focus on prevention, increasing access to treatment on demand, and reducing the number of fatal overdoses. The 40-member task force included experts from a wide range of disciplines, including public health, criminal justice, treatment providers, hospitals and schools.

“Opioid addiction is killing people in our community, sparing no age, race, sexual identity, income level or neighborhood,” said Executive Constantine. “The experts we brought together have provided us with the battle plan we need to defeat this epidemic – a plan to save lives, to make it easier for people to get the help they need, to prevent the devastating harm that addiction causes. Unless we are willing to let this suffering continue, we have an obligation to turn their plan into action."

The elected leaders directed departments to create a work group that will site a Community Health Engagement Location, or CHEL, in Seattle followed by another in a different part of King County. Based on the task force’s recommendation, it will provide a clinical setting where people who have a substance-use disorder can safely consume opioids and be connected to onsite treatment.

King County is also moving forward on the recommendation to apply a prevention-oriented approach that includes promoting safe storage and disposal of medications and working with schools and healthcare providers to better identify opioid use early.

The county will also take action to increase treatment capacity so that it’s more accessible when someone is ready to receive help.

The King County Board of Health last week unanimously approved all eight of the task force’s recommendations.

Early progress to prevent fatal overdoses

King County has already taken action recommended by the task force that has prevented fatal overdoses:

  • It has made more than 1,500 naloxone kits available to law enforcement, treatment providers and shelter staff, along with training.
  • It will soon launch a program that makes it easy to safely dispose of unused medications – including prescription painkillers – by setting up secured receptacles at pharmacies countywide.
  • It started a pilot project that offers rapid access to buprenorphine at King County’s Downtown Public Health Needle Exchange, expanding access to treatment.

Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray convened the task force in March 2016 as the heroin and opioid epidemic escalated.

More people in King County now enter detox for heroin than they do for alcohol. In 2014, opiate overdose deaths were the highest ever recorded in King County — more than triple the number of fatal overdoses in 2009.

The goal is to create a unified approach so that everyone in the community – including police officers, treatment providers, emergency responders, physicians, teachers, parents and caregivers – is focused on getting people to the right treatment, at the right time, at the right place. 


Relevant links


Quotes

Opioid addiction is killing people in our community, sparing no age, race, sexual identity, income level or neighborhood. The experts we brought together have provided us with the battle plan we need to defeat this epidemic – a plan to save lives, to make it easier for people to get the help they need, to prevent the devastating harm that addiction causes. Unless we are willing to let this suffering continue, we have an obligation to turn their plan into action.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography