Opioid count reveals the depth of the challenge

County agencies are cooperating to help “develop a more comprehensive look at the … epidemic.”

EVERETT — The count is a moment in time, a local attempt to measure the magnitude of what many experts call an opioid crisis.

Results released Wednesday show the challenge is daunting.

Health and law enforcement officials carved out seven days last July and a week earlier this month to gauge where things stand.

This year, 57 people overdosed and two died in that time.

Last year, 37 overdosed and three died.

The Snohomish Health District plans to start keeping real-time data of overdoses and deaths later this year, said Dr. Mark Beatty, health officer for the district. Agencies across the county are working together to streamline the process of collecting the information and making it public.

They also are hoping to record the number of people who might be hurt or killed by others under the influence of opiates, in a car crash for example.

“All these will help us develop a more comprehensive look at the opioid epidemic, rather than a one-week snapshot,” Beatty said.

Exact locations for the overdoses weren’t logged, which makes it hard to tell how many instances were within city limits.

Some people didn’t overdose in the same city where they live, and 33 percent of the incidents involved people who are homeless.

During the week, most overdoses occurred in Everett. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a larger problem in that city, Beatty said. The numbers seem to correlate with population, he said.

The health district and the other agencies, also called the Multi-Agency Coordination Group, are starting to dedicate resources for people to learn about prevention and to get help if they have an addiction, Beatty said. The old Carnegie library on Oakes Avenue in Everett is being turned into a social service center, where people can find long-term assistance for their addictions. The building is slated to open in September.

“It takes time for these interventions to get into place, to get set up,” he said. “Their impact won’t be seen in this seven-day point-in-time … It hasn’t had enough time to impact the crisis.”

Another drug being seen locally is fentanyl, a synthetic opiate about 50 times more lethal than heroin, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

During this year’s opioid count, at least one person overdosed after taking a pill labeled as a 30 milligram Percocet. Instead, it was fentanyl. A number of people have overdosed on the fake tabs, said Heather Thomas, spokeswoman for the health district.

Opiate overdoses can be reversed by a substance called naloxone, better known as Narcan. During the count, 40 people were saved with the antidote. It was administered by bystanders seven of those times.

Most pharmacies in the county sell the drug over the counter.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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