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Third annual count tracked 27 Snohomish County opioid overdoses in seven days

During one week in July, 27 people in Snohomish County overdosed because of opioids. Two of those overdoses were fatal. That information comes from the third annual seven-day point-in-time count by the Snohomish Health District in partnership with the Snohomish County Opioid Response Group.
2019 Snohomish County overdose count by date. Image courtesy of Snohomish County.

From a September 9, 2019, Snohomish Health District News Release.

Data gathered from partners throughout county gives insight into epidemic

During one week in July 2019, 27 people in Snohomish County overdosed because of opioids. Two of those overdoses were fatal.

That information comes from the third annual seven-day point-in-time count by the Snohomish Health District in partnership with the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group.

The point-in-time effort started two summers ago. Up until then, the only primary data about the effect of opioids in Snohomish County was total number of deaths and it could take 12 to 18 months to get those numbers.

To better analyze and respond to the opioid epidemic, the Health District aimed to gather data as close to real time as possible. The point-in-time count brings together partners to capture a snapshot of what the opioid crisis looks like in Snohomish County.

Over the last two years, a number of new avenues have been explored for maintaining a more robust and current data pipeline. That work is ongoing through coordinated MAC efforts.

The third annual point-in-time count is one method of gathering up-to-date information on overdoses. Hospitals, law enforcement, fire, EMS, the syringe exchange and other partners voluntarily collected data on overdoses for one week.

There were fewer overdoses reported this year compared to the past two seven-day counts. The 2017 count included 37 overdoses and the 2018 count increased to 57 overdoses. The number of deaths was the same this year as last year.

In nearly three-quarters of the reported overdoses, the person received the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Police or EMS administered naloxone to 12 patients, and eight others were given naloxone by a friend, family member or bystander.

Under a new standing order from the Washington State Health Officer, any person in the state can purchase naloxone from a pharmacy – the standing order works like a prescription that applies to all Washington residents.

Most of the overdoses were reportedly linked to heroin. In some cases, the heroin was used with other substances such as methamphetamine, alcohol, prescription opioids, or benzodiazepine.

Of the 27 people who overdosed, 17 obtained the drug or drugs on the street.

This year’s point-in-time tally also included the youngest overdose patient of the three counts, a 15-year-old. The oldest person who overdosed that week was 66. More than half of the reported overdoses were people in their 20s and 30s.

Efforts over the past few years to reduce the number of prescriptions for opioids and to encourage people to properly store and dispose of their medications have been well received by medical providers and the public. Unfortunately for those struggling with opioid use disorder, reducing the accessibility of prescription opioids may result in them turning to heroin.

Other key takeaways from the data analysis:

  • Slightly more men overdosed than women, with 14 men compared to 10 women.
  • When looking at race and ethnicity, about two-thirds of the people who overdosed were identified as White.
  • The most common location for reported overdoses was a private residence.
  • Five of the people who overdosed – 18.5 percent of the total – were reported as homeless.
  • Nearly one-third of the overdoses occurred between noon and 6:00 pm.
  • More than half of the people who overdosed 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. Just under 30 percent of new bookings during the seven-day period were inmates under opioid withdrawal watches.

Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more lethal than prescription opioids or heroin – is a growing concern. It has been found mixed into other substances, including pills sold on the street as prescription opioids.

Tracking fentanyl-related overdoses during the seven-day period was not feasible. However, data from the Washington State Department of Health indicates deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl are on the rise in Snohomish County.

Preliminary data from 2018 shows 55 deaths were related to synthetic opioids, a ­­­111% increase from 2017.

The number of fentanyl cases being investigated by the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force has also been steadily increasing.

It is important to note that the information collected for this count was voluntary, so the data provided should not be construed as exhaustive or lab confirmed. Forms were completed with information on the place and type of overdose location, as well as the place of residence for the patient.

Click on the following link to to an overview of the 2019 Snohomish County point-in-time count: 2019 Snohomish County point-in-time count overview.

For more information on efforts being done through the Opioid Response MAC Group, please go to www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com. This website and accompanying social media accounts were developed to be a one-stop shop for resources. Whether trying to understand the problem, prevent addiction, or save a life, this is a place to find information for that first next step.

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