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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Heroin and prescription opiate task force already taking action to reduce fatal overdoses

Summary

The task force of experts that Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray brought together in March to confront the region’s growing heroin epidemic is already taking action that will prevent fatal overdoses.

Story

kelley_rossThe heroin and prescription opiate task force that King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray brought together last month is already taking action to reduce the number of fatal overdoses.

About 90 doses of naloxone – a nasal spray used to reverse the effects of heroin and opiate overdose – will be distributed to local treatment and housing providers where people receive assistance for mental illness and addiction. It’s the first in what will be a series of recommendations by the task force representing the medical field, treatment providers, police and fire, hospitals, public health and other disciplines.

“This impressive lineup of experts is already recommending actions we can take now to save lives immediately,” said Executive Constantine. “It demonstrates that we share a sense of urgency and a commitment to creating innovative solutions.”

Members of the task force – including Kelley-Ross Pharmacy, University of Washington--Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the King County Department of Community and Human Services – are working with service providers to make the kits available immediately.

The task force is scheduled to deliver a comprehensive list of recommendations in September to confront the region’s growing heroin epidemic, though Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray encouraged members to act sooner if possible.

“When we stood up this task force, we asked for recommendations for early actions that could save lives today, as well as a comprehensive response to this national epidemic,” said Mayor Murray. “We will do more to prevent overdose deaths and prevent more from falling into chemical dependency.”

Executive Constantine and Mayor Murray were joined by Mayor Denis Law of Renton and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus to announce the task force in March in response to the surge in deaths related to heroin and prescriptions opiates. In 2014, opiate overdose deaths were the highest ever recorded in King County – more than triple the number of deaths in 2009.

King County, Kelley-Ross Pharmacy and UW’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute sponsored a training last week to help case managers recognize the signs and symptoms of heroin and other opiate overdose, and provided a demonstration on how to administer the naloxone. Each kit, under the brand name Narcan, includes two doses of the nasal spray. While one is often enough to counteract the opiates, in some cases two doses are needed to regain consciousness, by which time emergency medical response will have arrived.

Multiple disciplines are seeing the sharp rise in heroin addiction, including emergency rooms, treatment centers, health clinics and hospitals. By bringing experts from all those disciplines together, the task force is creating a unified, coordinated approach so that they are working together to achieve the same outcome.



Relevant links


Quotes

This impressive lineup of experts is already recommending actions we can take now to save lives immediately. It demonstrates that we share a sense of urgency and a commitment to creating innovative solutions.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

When we stood up this task force, we asked for recommendations for early actions that could save lives today, as well as a comprehensive response to this national epidemic. We will do more to prevent overdose deaths and prevent more from falling into chemical dependency.

Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor

We are thrilled to partner with King County to expand access to life-saving Naloxone. For us, the opiate overdose crisis is personal and we want to do everything we can to be a part of the countywide solution to an epidemic, that may even serve as a model for other parts of the nation facing similar challenges. After all, everyone deserves a second chance at life.

Ryan Oftebro, PharmD, Chief Executive Officer, Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group

Saving lives today gives us the chance to get these individuals into treatment and services tomorrow. Treatment works and recovery from addiction is possible.

Brad Finegood, Task Force Co-Chair and 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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