57 overdoses over 7 days in Snohomish County

Tighter control of opioid prescriptions leading to increased heroin use
By Brian Soergel | Aug 02, 2018

More than 50 overdoses in one week. Twelve in one day.

The Snohomish Health District – in partnership with the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group – recently completed a second seven-day point-in-time data collection for opioid overdoses from July 9-15.

The data represents reports from local fire, police, EMS, hospitals, the syringe exchange and the medical examiner’s office.

The report is disheartening: 57 overdoses in one week, two being fatal. The 57 overdoses are up from last year’s inaugural count in July of 37, when there were three deaths.

This year, two of the overdoses were reported in Edmonds, and one was noted as having an Edmonds mailing address.

“I know we participated in the study, but the PD did not record any overdoses or have any data to submit during the time period,” Edmonds Police Sgt. Shane Hawley said.

“There are a couple of possibilities. Those could be unincorporated Edmonds. They could have been submitted from calls where only fire/EMS responded, and we didn’t have any involvement – hence no reporting by us – or from the hospital. If someone was brought in for that, the hospital wouldn’t necessarily call us.”

“The overall increase is partially due to us getting people to report it better,” said Edmonds Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, chairwoman of the Snohomish Health District’s 15-member Board of Health.

In addition, much effort has been focused on reducing the number of opioid prescriptions, Fraley-Monillas said. But that, she added, has led to an increase of heroin – cheaper and easier to obtain.

The seven-day survey revealed at least 61 percent of the individuals overdosed on heroin, and the bulk of the opioids were obtained on the street.

The survey showed that there also is an increased use of synthetic fentanyl in the area. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more lethal than prescription opioids and heroin. The survey saw a continued spike in counterfeit “Perc-30” – Percocet – pills being sold on the streets laced with fentanyl.

At least one of the overdoses reported was the result of one of those dangerous counterfeit pills.

If the report had a bright side, it’s that so many who overdosed were saved from death. That’s largely responsible to Narcan, a medication most commonly used as a nasal spray to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose situations.

“So when people do overdose, others are able to save them,” Fraley-Monillas said, “including roommates and family members.”

The survey reported that victims ranged in age from 17 to 73. As is the case nationwide, opioid use is seen across all age groups and ethnicities.

“I get comments from people like, ‘Why are we saving these people?’” Fraley-Monillas said. “I say, ‘What would think if your daughter, or your son, your grandchildren, cousin, brother, sister or parents overdosed?’”

Other key takeaways from the report:

• Overdoses were mostly men, with 34 males, 20 females and three cases where gender was not recorded;

• While the youngest reported was 17 and the oldest 73, 21 of the overdoses were those between the ages of 21 and 30;

• When looking at race and ethnicity, 77 percent were identified as white;

• Naloxone (Narcan) was administered in 72 percent of the reports, saving 40 lives;

• Nearly one-third of the overdoses occurred between noon and 6 p.m.; and

• Of the 57 overdoses, 13 percent did not have 911 called in response to their medical emergency.

In addition to overdose data received from local partners, information was collected by the Corrections Bureau within the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. About 32 percent of new bookings during the seven-day period were inmates under opioid withdrawal watches.

Fraley-Monillas said that the report hasn’t changed Snohomish County’s decision to ban safe-injection sites. Edmonds councilmembers also have expressed no interest in them.

“We don’t have good data at this point that safe-injection sites are improving anything,” she said. “One of biggest (detriments) is the cost to taxpayers. It’s very, very expensive. You need medical personnel on duty.”

What is Edmonds doing?

In March, councilmembers unanimously approved creating one-time funds of $250,000 each for opioid and homelessness response. Fraley-Monillas said the city is waiting for a report from Mark Beatty, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, before acting further.

That report is expected this month.

“This recent report shows us that we are still in the depths of this crisis, and we need a broad range of tactics to address it,” Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) said.

“I am pleased that Naloxone looks to be saving lives in the county, thanks to the forward thinking of the Health District, Sheriff’s office and our first responders. This crisis affects all of us.”

For more information on efforts being done through the Opioid Response MAC Group, go to www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com.


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