With cases of opioid addiction and overdose steadily rising in Grays Harbor County, the county’s department of Public Health and Social Services has released an Opioid Needs Assessment and Response Plan that analyzes data on opioid addiction and outlines strategies for addressing it.
Wilma Weber and Kristina Alnajjar of Public Health and Social Services worked with law enforcement and fire departments, tribal groups, county and city officials, and schools on the plan.
According to a recent state health assessment, Grays Harbor County was ranked as having the highest overdose death rate per capita among Washington counties, averaging more than 20 overdose-related deaths per 100,000 people from 2012 through 2016.
Over the past decade, the number of first admissions to publicly funded treatment programs for addiction has gone up by 361 percent.
In addition to reviewing programs currently offered and activities being done to combat addiction, the county plan lists a number of strategies community members have suggested to reduce addiction rates.
These recommendations include adding more drug education and prevention programs in schools, developing partnerships with local agencies to educate locals on overdoses and naloxone (a medicine used as an antidote to overdose), and promoting use of the Washington Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP).
PMP, created in 2007, is an online tool for medical providers intended to curb prescription drug abuse by patients. It asks that medical providers record cases in which they suspect patients are abusing prescription drugs to prevent patients from getting future prescriptions. But Alnajjar said it can be a time-consuming process to record this data, so physicians sometimes skip it.
In fact, a county survey shows that while 93 percent of primary care physicians in Grays Harbor County know about PMP, only 57 percent of them reported that they use it. That survey also reported that 64 percent of physicians say they use an alternative system for monitoring potential opioid addiction, and found that half of surveyed physicians feel dissatisfied with how they currently screen patients for drug abuse history.
The Grays Harbor County report on opioids is online at the “Overdose Prevention Project” webpage for Grays Harbor Public Health and Social Services.