Opioid Roundtable dives deeper into addiction and recovery services in Snohomish County

Roundtable participants meet via Zoom on Thursday evening.

The opioid crisis is closer to home than many realize in Snohomish County, and the impacts are being felt throughout the community. It was one of the takeaways from Thursday night’s virtual opioid roundtable hosted by the Verdant Health Commission.

Verdant Health Commission Chairman of the Board, Jim Distelhorst, opened the meeting by sharing a 17 minute video on opioid use in Snohomish County, where overdose deaths have increased 20-30% since 2020. In 2020 alone, 525 Snohomish County residents died from opioid overdoses. Yakima County is the only other county in Washington with more opioid-related deaths.

Opioid use is not only harmful to users, it also harms other members of the community. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three police officers will be stuck by a used needle during their career.

Verdant based in Lynnwood (find out more about how it works and how it is funded here) funds a range of health-related initiatives and has also launched its own Needle Service Program (SSP), Distelhorst explained. The needle exchange program provides drug users with sterile injecting equipment, safe disposal of needles, access to health care, treatment, testing and support.

Distelhorst pointed out that Verdant Health does not distribute free needles, which leads to more needles being improperly discarded.

“People only get the number of needles they give back,” Distelhorst said.

This helps limit the number of needles in the community and ensure that as many needles as possible are properly disposed of, he said.

Verdant has also addressed the opioid issue by hosting Narcan training. Narcan is a nasal spray that, when administered, blocks the effects of an opioid overdose. In January, Verdant partnered with Molina Healthcare and Snohomish County Social Services to host three training sessions attended by over 75 community members.

As a result, “there are now 75 more people in our community trained to recognize the signs of an overdose and administer Narcan,” Distelhorst said. “Each participant received a Narcan kit to take home. Each kit contains two Narcan nasal sprays. This means that there are now another 150 of these Narcan nasal sprays circulating in the community.

Verdant plans to hold additional Narcan training sessions in the coming months.

Roundtable speaker Linda Grant, CEO of Evergreen Recovery Center, said there is a stereotype that only teenagers use opioids, when in fact they don’t.

“We need to broaden our thinking about how we approach this,” Grant said. “About 70% of opioid-related deaths are people over 30.”

Evergreen’s naturopathic doctor, Andrew Dzikowski, said the clinic has seen a significant increase in relapses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he added that Evergreen strives to be a place where patients feel they can come back if they need additional help.

“One of the things we strive for is that whether you’ve relapsed or not or are recovering, we want to be a safe place where people feel they can come back, whatever their situation. , without any judgement,” he said. “And that’s what we do. We create a safe and protected space for people to come at all stages of recovery and all stages of life and to guide them to a safer environment with housing, counselling, therapy, medical care and a warm, loving touch.

After the video, a Q&A session was held to answer questions from the community.

Many commenters have asked where teens can get drug treatments and access programs like SSP.

Distelhorst said the Center for Human Services offers outpatient treatment for teens. The center is a non-profit, community-based youth and family services agency that provides counseling and promotes drug and alcohol prevention. Northpoint Recovery, located in Bellevue, also offers treatment for children ages 12 to 17 and accepts Medicaid.

Grant said she empathizes with young people trying to seek help for addictions as resources have dwindled in recent years.

“The treatment of young people has just gone down terribly in terms of resources,” she said. “I know our legislature is trying to reinforce that this time, but the Center for Human Services is about it. Even the inpatient facility, Sundown M Ranch [located in Yakima] is the last hospital treatment center for young people. It’s just dying for no really good reason.

A commenter asked if facilities are experiencing longer stays than before due to the presence of drugs with stronger trace amounts.

According to Mishelle Rutherford, director of health services at Evergreen, the average stay for patients in rehab is five days. However, stays are getting longer as many drugs are now mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Because fentanyl takes so long to leave the body, patients experience withdrawal symptoms for longer periods of time.

“We find that it lives in the fat cells,” she said. “So he comes out at different times. So someone can feel better one day in rehab, and the next day they’re back in full withdrawal. It was really difficult to manage. »

Another commenter linked to this question, asking if it was proving difficult to convince insurance companies to cover longer stays.

Rutherford said Evergreen hasn’t had too many problems with insurance companies so far.

“As long as we can show there’s a medical need for them to be there,” she said. “This is where it gets tricky, because what we might consider a medical need in our detox field may not be exactly what the insurance company considers a medical need. So that poses problems. »

In fact, Rutherford said, there are more problems with patients leaving early.

“We end up having a lot of people leaving against medical advice around day four or day five because they don’t feel better,” she said. “So it’s kind of a complicated room just to get them through full detox. And of course going through rehab: that’s just the very beginning.”

Distelhorst ended the meeting by thanking the community for joining in and being open to learning more about the complicated processes of addiction treatment.

Any other questions or comments can be sent to Zoe Reese at [email protected]

— by Lauren Reichenbach

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