Opioid epidemic and the future of Snohomish Health District

A year ago, the health district had not fully engaged with the problem. That’s changed.

  • Saturday, October 7, 2017 1:15pm
  • Life

By Adrienne Fraley-Monillas / Board of Health

and Jefferson Ketchel / Snohomish Health District

Just a year ago, the Snohomish Health District stood at a crossroads as described in a Sept.19, 2016, Daily Herald article: “Once excellent” Snohomish Health District now “crumbling away.”

Our director and health officer of 10 years had announced his retirement, the Ruckelshaus Center had released its situation assessment report painting a picture of disengagement and obscurity, and the weight of a potential merger with Snohomish County and chronic underfunding persisted.

In parallel with these operational issues, the opioid epidemic was ravaging our communities, and the health district had not fully engaged with the problem. State law mandates that the district “supervise the maintenance of all health and sanitary measures for protection of the public health within its jurisdiction,” but it was limited in how it could use the majority of the funding — and opioids were not a funded item.

A change of direction was critical if the health district was going to deliver on this mandate and its mission “to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities through disease prevention, health promotion and protection from environmental threats.” Our leadership, with Board of Health support, approached cities and Snohomish County to form a partnership to protect existing programs and to enhance public health services, as well as address opioids. Each city and the county was asked for $2 per capita. They answered positively, and we launched our enhanced opioid efforts.

System changes to address opioids

From a public health perspective, opioid use disorder is a disease, not a failure of will. As a society, we create systems and environments that make illness or wellness easier or more difficult to achieve.

Several decades ago, tobacco use was prevalent throughout society, and smoking indoors was the norm. This norm was supported by policies that allowed this behavior, as well as a system that promoted tobacco use. Through system change, we began limiting advertising and the locations where products could be used, while also working to make services to aid quitting more available. This resulted in a decline in tobacco use by helping users quit and preventing youth from starting.

The same approach goes for opioids. We must change the system of how and why people misuse and abuse, as well as provide treatment options and reduce the collateral damage. We do not have a single silver bullet for prevention, but we do have many solutions at our disposal. In the past six months, the health district and its many community partners have made significant strides:

We implemented the eighth secure medicine take-back program in the nation, funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It now operates at local law enforcement locations and pharmacies around the county. Information can be found at www.med-project.org.

A one-stop-shop for opioid information and resources was launched and can be found at www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com.

Community syringe cleanup kits are available at the health district’s Everett location, as well as from some other government partners.

We have distributed lock bags at community events so prescription drugs can be securely stored at home.

Innovative sources of data to report and track the opioid epidemic are being explored and carried out, such as the seven-day overdose count we oversaw in July.

We’ve maintained our services of working with law and code enforcement officers to clean up nuisance properties.

Our WIC/First Steps programs and public health nurses continue to work with at-risk and addicted parents to break the cycle by raising a healthy next generation.

And we’re collaborating with multiple local partners in developing the next phase. A lot has been accomplished, but there is still much more to do.

The future

We envision a future where the Snohomish Health District is viewed as the community’s chief health strategist. As the world changes, we must also change to meet current and future demands. Being the chief health strategist means knowing in real time the health of the community, being nimble and adaptable to new causes of illness and injury, and targeting those causes of illness quickly and effectively. It means collaboratively working with traditional and nontraditional partners to get the job done by being approachable and accountable, customer-savvy, and modern through the use of technology. We have also started the journey to national public health accreditation and expect it to be completed in 2019.

The Ruckelshaus Center stated in its assessment that “interviewees envisioned a future where public health would be recognized, relevant and of value to the people of Snohomish County.”

We couldn’t agree more, and if the past six months are an indication of the next six years, we are well on our way.

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is the chairwoman of the Board of Health and a member of the Edmonds City Council. Jefferson Ketchel is the interim administrator of the Snohomish Health District.

Talk to us

More in Life

Darlene Love, Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer  performed in concert at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on Sept. 12, 2015.
Pandemic’s not stopping Christmas Queen Darlene Love

The singer best known for “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will perform her annual holiday concert online this year.

roses
A gardener’s to-do list for winterizing the yard — Part 2

Try to accomplish most of these chores, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get them all done.

Caleb Sanders and Ashley Dougherty help decorate for the Trees of Christmas event at the Everett Bible Baptist Church. (Maria Lara)
Church keeps Christmas tradition alive with drive-thru event

Everett Bible Baptist Church hosts Trees of Christmas, with music, narration and special treats for the family.

Mexican sedum is an excellent groundcover plant, forming a dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Sedum kimnachii aka Mexican sedum

An excellent groundcover plant, this variety forms a flat, dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves.

Make holidays brighter with energy saving tips and gifts

Snohomish County PUD shares five smart ways to find joy in the season that use less electricity.

John Spadam owner, at Spada Farmhouse Brewery in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Spada ready to show off new bar and restaurant in Snohomish

During the pandemic, the Spada family has been busy renovating an old building on First Street.

Precept Wine, the largest privately-owned wine company in Washington, recruited Seattle native Sarah Cabot to take over its pinot noir production in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2014. (Precept Wine)
Six examples of award-winning pinot noir in the Northwest

The Willamette Valley of Oregon has a reputation for the red wine, but there are other success stories in the area.

To deposit a coin in the Bonzo bank, you had to push his tummy. His tongue would come out of his mouth to deposit the coin inside. Many similar banks were made picturing other comic characters. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Mechanical bank of the first famous Bonzo sells for $1,800

The dog decorating the front of the tin bank was a comic cartoon star from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Design elements of the M235i Gran Coupe include angled headlights, four-eyed halo daytime running lights, and BMW’s traditional kidney grille. (Manufacturer photo)
BMW’s compact 2 Series Gran Coupe is all new to the 2020 lineup

A turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and 8-speed automatic transmission are standard on both versions.

Most Read