Health district to huddle on ways to stem opioid use

Herald file photo

Herald file photo

Last year, the Snohomish Health District said that local heroin deaths had reached epidemic levels.

With no sign the problem is abating, the public health agency is looking at what it can do now to reduce the problem.

The health district board will be briefed on the rise in heroin and opioid use during its meeting Tuesday. Presentations will be made by Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the health district, and Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Banta-Green has helped champion the cause of increasing the availability of a medicine that can prevent overdose deaths. The medication, called naloxone, or Narcan, can help reverse overdoses of powerful opiates, and is available for purchase at some pharmacies without a prescription.

The drug helps block the effects of prescription pain medications such as oxycodone, Vicodin and codeine, as well as heroin.

Among the steps the health district is taking is contacting local doctors and dentists, asking them to prescribe strong opioid painkillers only when absolutely necessary, said Heather Thomas, a district spokeswoman. Patients who become addicted to painkillers often turn to heroin when their prescriptions expire.

Another step is having the number of patients treated for overdoses reported to the health district, she said.

Counting these cases would be similar to the reporting that goes on for communicable diseases, such as measles or tuberculosis. That way health officials can get a truer picture of the number of people affected by overdoses. Now only deaths from overdoses are tabulated.

Clallam County launched a comprehensive program, so far the only one of its kind in the state, to try to better coordinate services for heroin and opioid users, Thomas said. Health officials in Snohomish County and statewide are trying to see if they can adopt a similar program.

As reported by The Peninsula Daily News, those steps include making counseling more available in its syringe exchange program, implementing an overdose reporting system, and increasing the availability of a medication that can help addicts stop using opioids without unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

The health district also is planning a series of community forums this summer or fall on the heroin crisis, Thomas said.

The forums would be similar to events previously held in Snohomish and Mukilteo. “There’s been a lot of interest by other cities to have heroin forums,” Thomas said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Analisa Paterno of Marysville-Getchell, left, shares a laugh with Nathan Harms Friday morning at Pathfinder Manufacturing in Everett, Washington on September 23, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Sky’s the limit: Snohomish County teens help build parts for Boeing

Pathfinder Manufacturing in Everett trains dozens of at-risk high school students to make airplane parts, en route to a career.

Fred Safstrom, CEO of Housing Hope, is retiring. Photographed in Everett, Washington on October 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Housing Hope CEO reflects on 25-year career helping unsheltered people

“People used to believe homelessness was caused by bad choices.” Minds and policies are changing, Fred Safstrom said.

Vehicles exiting I-5 southbound begin to turn left into the eastbound lanes of 164th Street Southwest on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Traffic backups on 164th Street near I-5 could see relief soon

The county and state are implementing a new traffic signal system that synchronizes the corridor and adjusts to demand.

Rick Winter (left) and Gary Yang, the founders of the former UniEnergy Technologies, stand with one their latest batteries, the Reflex, August 10, 2022. (Dan DeLong/InvestigateWest)
‘Chaotic mess’: Clean energy promises imploded at Mukilteo battery maker

UniEnergy Technologies absorbed millions in public funds, then suddenly went dark. The company is accused of providing tech to China.

Federal funds could pay for Everett bathrooms, gun buyback, more

City officials propose $7.95 million of American Rescue Plan Act money on a shelter, mental health support and more.

Community Transit chief financial officer Eunjoo Greenhouse
Community Transit hires King County staffer as CFO

Eunjoo Greenhouse is set to join the agency Oct. 24 after years in King County government.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 in south Lake Stevens to close overnight this weekend

The highway will be closed between 20th Street SE and 32nd Street SE. Through traffic should use Highway 204 and U.S. 2.

Everett aims to ‘streamline’ cumbersome process for code violations

The current system costs about $1 million per year to run, but only brings in about $50,000 in fines. Staff suggested changes.

Alexander Fritz is released from handcuffs after being lead into the courtroom Thursday afternoon at Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on October 6, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Team USA climbing coach gets 5 years for child rapes

Alexander Fritz, 28, engaged in “inappropriate relationships” with 15-year-old girls, he admitted in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Most Read