At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Edmonds City Council heard a presentation from Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and two of his staff on their efforts to implement a strategic approach to confronting the growing opioid crisis in our area.
“Opioid abuse has been with us for a long time,” Somers said, “but in the past few years it has become more acute and shows no signs of waning.”
Somers pointed out how our traditional approach to the problem has been piecemeal, with different agencies working different aspects of the issue without a central coordination. He went on to explain how the county is addressing this by applying the methods of emergency response to the opioid crisis through a holistic multi-agency effort.
“Our guiding principles for this effort are collaboration and coordination for the benefit of all of our residents,” said Somers. “We are a community coming together. To facilitate collaboration, I have directed the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management to partially activate the Emergency Coordination Center to support this effort.”
He then turned the presentation over to the county’s Emergency Management Director Jason Biermann, who provided specifics on how the county is bringing emergency response protocols to bear in addressing the opioid crisis.
“While not a formal declaration of emergency, as typically used during natural disasters, the Executive’s directive opens the door to additional staff resources to facilitate better coordination and communication across multiple jurisdictions, government agencies and service providers,” he explained. “The multiple agencies and governments in Snohomish County involved so far have formed an Opioid Response Multi-agency Coordination (MAC) Group.
“First we’re looking to increase collaboration among all the players through measures including breaking down silos, maximizing and sharing our limited resources, and identifying a common message,” he explained. “Next we apply the same kind of thinking as we do in managing emergencies, utilizing multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional coordination, taking the overall framework from our Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and utilizing the roles and responsibilities as defined by Emergency Support Functions.”
Biermann was joined by Somers’ Executive Assistant Alessandra Durham, who provided several concrete examples of how the program is being implemented, with agencies coming together to address the problem.
“One major step has been increasing access to Naloxone (a drug that can literally bring an overdose victim back from death’s door) for emergency responders, and even family members,” she explained. “We are also preparing to open a 44-bed conversion facility to provide a place for addicts to live after they leave jail or treatment, as an alternative to returning to their old surroundings where they’re more likely to relapse.”
More information on the Opioid Response MAC group is available here.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas commented that the problem is more than opioids, but also includes the crimes that stem from it as addicts resort to burglary, shoplifting and other ways to get the money to support their habit.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson remarked that Edmonds would like to be part of these partnerships, and Councilmember Diane Buckshnis pointed out that “May is mental health month,” and that opioid abuse is also a mental health problem.
Councilmember Dave Teitzel referred to the recent pressure from some citizens to ban safe injection sites, and asked Somers for his views on the issue.
Somers responded that while the County Council has also implemented a ban on these, he favors studying the problem further. “These are not just party houses,” he said, but serve to help control the problem just as needle exchanges help prevent hepatitis and other diseases that are spread through dirty injection needles.
The council also:
– Heard a report from Councilmember Teitzel on the selection of the Kone Consulting Group as the Homelessness Response Project Consultant.
– Received a brief presentation by Planning and Development Director Shane Hope on amendments to the 2018 Comprehensive Plan comprising changing the land use designation of two parcels, both slated to come before Council for action in late May.
In addition, Mayor Dave Earling read a proclamation naming May as Puget Sound Starts Here Month.
— Story and photo by Larry Vogel