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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


New state law enacts recommendations from King County task force to help cities and counties confront the opiate crisis

Summary

Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a bill that will enact several recommendations made by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force that will help cities and counties across the state confront the epidemic. It will help cities and counties lower barriers to treatment and reduce wait lists for opioid treatment.

Story

A bill signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee enacts recommendations made by the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force that will help cities and counties across the state confront the public health crisis.

The new law, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody, modernizes state regulations that will lower barriers to treatment and make medication that reverses the effects of overdoses more available. It also removes barriers for cities and counties to establish sites that connect people to medication-assisted treatment that can eliminate addiction to heroin and prescription opioid drugs.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and the mayors of Seattle, Auburn and Renton last year convened the task force of experts – representing public health, law enforcement, prosecutors, hospitals, schools and treatment providers – who created the recommendations that the new law is based upon.

“The state has cleared the path for cities and counties to confront the heroin and opioid epidemic, enacting recommendations made by experts we brought together in King County,” said Executive Constantine. “Governor Inslee, Representative Cody and the Legislature removed arbitrary barriers to effective treatment. Now, we need adequate state funding to ensure that treatment is available.”

“The opiate epidemic knows no boundaries, impacting lives in communities large and small,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “We need an aggressive, comprehensive approach to address this problem — today’s announcement is the first of many steps we must take in fighting this public health crisis.”

“Anything that we can do to lower barriers to treatment and recovery to fight this epidemic will get us closer to reducing the damage opiates are doing to families, communities and quality of life,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “I applaud our legislators for taking this bold and important step to help our communities heal.”

Gov. Inslee signed the bill at a ceremony in Olympia along with its sponsor, Rep. Cody, D-34th District.

“This bill marks key progress in the statewide movement to fight one of the most devastating crises facing our communities today — the public health crisis of opioids and heroin use and abuse,” Gov. Inslee said. “This legislation helps make sure people with opioid use disorder get rapid access to treatment andstrengthens our state’s prescription monitoring program.”

“By making it easier to site treatment programs to combat the opioid crisis, we will save lives,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-34th District. “More work is needed to ensure ready access to evidence based treatment, but this bill takes a small but meaningful step to help communities across Washington."

Removing arbitrary caps and easing pent-up demand for opioid treatment

The law enacts several task force recommendations. Most notably it supports successful siting and appropriate regulation of opiate treatment programs.

By removing arbitrary capacity caps and extra permitting rules, it should ease pent-up demand for opioid treatment programs across the state. The legislation also recognizes the evidence base for medication-assisted treatment as well as the role such programs play in saving lives and increasing productivity.

Led by advocacy from the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Hospital Association, the law also changes rules to make the state’s prescription monitoring program more effective and more widely used.

“Letting data drive decision making is key to promoting appropriate clinician prescribing,” said Dr. Shane Macaulay, president of the Washington State Medical Association.

“This bill makes needed changes to our state’s prescription monitoring program that will give physicians and providers on the frontlines of the opioid crisis access to the information they need to prescribe appropriately and safely,” said Cassie Sauer, president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

Moving forward on recommendations from experts

Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray announced in January that they will move forward on the complete set of recommendations made by the experts they convened in March 2016.

King County and its partners have moved forward on the recommendations, with a focus on prevention, improving access to treatment, and harm reduction:

  • Made more than 1,500 naloxone kits available to law enforcement and treatment providers to reverse the effects of overdoses.
  • Launched a campaign that has made it easier to safely dispose of unused and expired medication – including prescription painkillers – by setting up more than 100 secured drop-boxes at pharmacies countywide.
  • Started a pilot project that offers rapid access to buprenorphine at King County’s Downtown Public Health Needle Exchange, expanding access to treatment.

King County is in the process of identifying sites for two Community Health Engagement Locations, or CHELs, where clinical staff will engage people who are ready for treatment and connect them to treatment. CHELs will extend the lifesaving work of the Public Health Needle Exchange Program, which is credited with dramatically reducing the number of HIV/AIDS cases in King County.

The next steps

Funds to cover the bill have yet to be appropriated as the Legislature hasn’t passed the biennial budget. However, both the House and Senate proposed budgets have included more than $11 million in federal funding for immediate response for communities throughout the state.


Relevant links


Quotes

The state has cleared the path for cities and counties to confront the heroin and opioid epidemic, enacting recommendations made by experts we brought together in King County. Governor Inslee, Representative Cody and the Legislature removed arbitrary barriers to effective treatment. Now, we need adequate state funding to ensure that treatment is available.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The opiate epidemic knows no boundaries, impacting lives in communities large and small. We need an aggressive, comprehensive approach to address this problem — today’s announcement is the first of many steps we must take in fighting this public health crisis.

Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor

Anything that we can do to lower barriers to treatment and recovery to fight this epidemic will get us closer to reducing the damage opiates are doing to families, communities and quality of life. I applaud our legislators for taking this bold and important step to help our communities heal.

Nancy Backus, Auburn Mayor

This bill marks key progress in the statewide movement to fight one of the most devastating crises facing our communities today — the public health crisis of opioids and heroin use and abuse. This legislation helps make sure people with opioid use disorder get rapid access to treatment andstrengthens our state’s prescription monitoring program.

Jay Inslee, Governor

By making it easier to site treatment programs to combat the opioid crisis, we will save lives. More work is needed to ensure ready access to evidence based treatment, but this bill takes a small but meaningful step to help communities across Washington.

Eileen Cody, State House of Representatives

Letting data drive decision making is key to promoting appropriate clinician prescribing.

Shane Macaulay, MD, President of the Washington State Medical Association

This bill makes needed changes to our state’s prescription monitoring program that will give physicians and providers on the frontlines of the opioid crisis access to the information they need to prescribe appropriately and safely.

Cassie Sauer, President and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association

This bill will help people suffering from opiate addiction get the lifesaving medications they need, comparable to people with other chronic diseases. We need to use every tool we have to fight the heroin and opiate epidemic, and expanding access to medication-assisted treatment is the most important step we can take.

Jeff Duchin, MD, Public Health Officer at Public Health -- Seattle & King County

Our task force identified outdated state policies that have prevented people from getting the treatment they need. The law signed today removes many of those barriers. We look forward to continuing to work with state leaders to deliver solutions to the growing opioid crisis.

Brad Finegood, Assistant Division Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery at King County Department of Community and Human Services

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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