Edmonds City Council hears from County Executive on emergency opioid response

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

  1. I’m a layman but I read a lot of nothing??? Come together as a team? What I’m not hearing is to do what? The crime has tripled in Edmonds. So have the users. 1) They need a specific place to put users when caught breaking and entering, shoplifting etc. Not right back on the streets so they do it again. It’s great they can save the users with a medicine??? That is the great news?? It is for the parents. (Maybe) The user wants to and will use. Lock them up. For rehab. (I’m convinced that is the only way they will stop using. Heroin is not a simple drug to quit.) Even if they want to. Not enough REAL heroin counseling. BUT you have to lock them up for year (s) to get them to quit. (With counciling.) Even then they are driven to return. Smarter to look for a large facility ONLY FOR USERS who want off). Jail for those that don’t. How about our kids who step on these needles in parks? What are their rights? Or the homes they burgle to get the drugs after they have stolen and sold everything from their friends and family? You have a needle exchange?? Every dealer on the planet moves within a block of that site. Easy to find the addicts to sell to.

    1. Society could criminalize anything that has undesirable societal effects. Mental health wasnt always criminalized, but in recent decades prisons deal with that problem. Society could criminalize obesity if it wanted, and there are valid reasons to do so. In Europe certain trade is criminalized, and people are jailed for smuggling butter. Prostitution is humanity’s oldest profession and where ever it is illegal it is a societal problem, wheras where ever it’s legal it isn’t a problem. In LA if you have sex for money, film it, then sell it on the internet – it’s legal. In DC if you have sex for money and tell no one about it – you’re jailed.

      People are self medicating because people always self medicate (it’s sorta human). I’d legalize all drugs, even drugs some older or terminally ill people are seeking for assisted suicide. This will allow legitimate companies to offer heroin with quality controls, and will allow civil tort. People are resorting to drugs like meth and other vice because other safer drugs are too controlled. Our grade school in Edmonds still has a DARE program.

      1. I read that San Francisco spent over $30M last year cleaning up needles off the ground and other such waste on their streets last year.


        If you know anything about homelessness, you’ll know that most people are incredibly mobile and have wanderlust. People will travel across the nation to go where ever certain conditions are favorable to their lifestyle, and affordable housing is NOT one of those conditions. There is no affordable housing in SF, but homeless still travel there. There really isn’t any affordable housing here either. Criminalization of drug use doesn’t work. Waging a well-intentioned war on homelessness seems to actually increase homelessness. Empirically speaking, progressive attempts at creating affordable housing seems to only exacerbate the cost of housing. Look at results, not intentions. The prototypical old lady that feeds stray cats behind the car wash has the best intentions, but in this case the dignity of people and the robustness of society is being hurt by progressive policymaking.

        Is Seattle’s plan really to do what failed in California 15 years after if failed there, and is Edmonds’ plan really to do what Seattle did 3 years after it failed there? Doing nothing to fix the [drug, homeless, and affordable housing] problems is better than doing whatever we’re doing now even though we all have the best intentions.

  2. Full disclosure: I am a die-hard, New Deal-type Liberal, and proud of it. 🙂

    The opioid crisis is not just needles in the park; it is closely allied to the homeless crisis, and the one feeds off the other.

    That said… This all seems like just another do-nothing but feel good conference. One is almost ready to apply Churchill’s assessment of the Versailles Treaty when he wrote, ” History will characterize all these transactions as insane… All this is a sad story of complicated idiocy in the making of which much toil and virtue was consumed.”

    We need steps to be taken, real, concrete steps. The most sensible thing I have heard is a friend’s three-part solution to the homeless situation, which is closely related to the opioid crisis: give the incorrigibles, the ones gaming the system, a choice: incarceration in treatment facilities or jail; get the kids (and animals!) out of the jungles and into care; do whatever is necessary to help those who are actual victims of misfortune (loss of job + healthcare bills, etc.).

    This would be radical, would probably draw the fire of the far-left, but it might actually work. But in addition, I would suggest that fundamental societal problems need badly to be addressed: a healthcare system that dooms some to poverty; and a medical-industrial complex that allows Big Pharma to push unhealthy drugs, through rewarding doctors to over-prescribe. These two would draw fire from the far-right.

    We cannot allow ourselves to forget that the opioid crisis is more than needles and hard drugs. it is also over-use, encouraged by advertisement and doctors, to over-medicate, as well as a societal “norm” that believes you can cure anything with a pill. Far-left liberals need to learn that getting tough is sometimes the only way forward, and far-left conservatives need to stop pretending that unregulated business always provides a solution, and that any “social insurance” is always bad.

    1. In terms of doing nothing or doing “something” in the context of this article and the New Deal; the sharpest depression in US history was in 1920-21. Warren G. Harding did nothing and the economy repaired itself, with speculators losing the most. The Great Depression technically didn’t end until after WWII, and the war was billed as a jobs program to aid in economic recovery of all things (this is where the “war is good for the economy” myth originates). The New Deal was a Bad Deal. Thomas Woods points out that FDR actually created the Great Depression out of what would have been just a recession, whereas Harding resisted calls from both sides political spectrum to “help” the economy in 1920. ¯\_(:/)_/¯

      The Trump family made a lot of money by building projects to service LBJ’s Great Society, and financed much of his endeavors with FHA loans and affordable housing grants. Slums, which were privately owned black real estate by in large, were taken from minority owners through eminent domain, and those people were put into projects for their own good. LBJ’s Great Society has failed, and people of color suffered because, in the long run, real estate that was taken from them is priceless. “Projects” used to be a good word.

      Housing affordability, substance abuse, student loan prices, and [you mention] healthcare; all great great examples of how the government intervenes with good intentions, but just ends up creating a Great Depression where there weren’t one before.

      1. It doesn’t appear to me that you have addressed any of the points I tried to make, other than may reference – largely irrelevant – to the New Deal. We need ideas how to deal with the crisis, not criticism of the past or references to debatable sources such as Woods. What do you actually suggest for dealing with the opioid crisis? It appears that you prefer a laissez faire response?

  3. DARE didnt work, and neither does allowing squatters to occupy public spaces with their needles and tents. Laissez Faire has the benefit of not wasting tax dollars while floundering and failing to find something that works. The most constructive thing I’ve said is dont do whatever California and Seattle are doing.

    The problem is misdiagnosed. I grew up around meth heads who scrapped metal, worked in body shops, and painted houses. We need those type of drug addicts. To this day I work with functioning alcoholics. We need those types of alcoholics. None were homeless in tents. Mentally ill people can hold jobs too. It’s not entirely cause-effect.

    Seattle should decrimalize drugs, but also decriminalize landlords. Allow the market to dictate housing prices and terms. We need some good ‘ol fashioned slums on the edge of town where rents are cheap and tenants can be evicted easily for not paying. Every possible living condition above living in a tent and below a $1600/mo studio with a coffee shop on the ground floor is illegal, so of course people are living in tents. Really, this problem is a no-brainer. Either allow someone who’s homeless to sleep in your couch, or allow landlords the flexibility they need to provide housing in a sustainable way. Progressive policies eliminated the ability for incremental improvement of one’s self and the dignity that goes along with that.

  4. Slums and slum lords. That’s the answer. Get those slums started right away up there on 99 where they belong. For goodness sake don’t make any city ordinances that would impinge on the slum lords rights to charge whatever they can get for substandard vermin infested housing. The free market will solve everything if you just leave it alone. Damn Liberals, messing up everything they get their hands on. What we really need, is some good old fashioned “red lining” and hidden methods of keeping neighborhoods segregated. Yep, we just need to Make America Great Again.

  5. Dang, another great answer from our glorious past. Just drag those women and children out of their cars in the church yards and slap them in chain gangs. They can patch pot holes for nothing. Yank those druggies out of their tents, chain ’em up, and get to cleaning the roadsides. It’s all right in front of our faces. How could we be so dumb?

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