County in crisis reacts to opioid commission: 'People are dying out here'

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson reports on America's opioid epidemic, which is among one of the biggest problems in Snohomish County.

President Donald Trump's new drug commission is calling on him to declare a national emergency to deal with the country's opioid epidemic.

The commission sent an initial report to the president, saying the approximately 142 deaths each day from overdoses means the death toll is "equal to September 11th every three weeks."

The report includes recommendations to address insurance regulations and assist law enforcement.

Snohomish County is among those hardest hit by the epidemic in Washington.

In the first three months of this year alone, 253 people in Snohomish County overdosed on opioids. Deaths are down about 50 percent since 2015, but that's likely due to increased use of the drug Naloxone that reverses the effects of a potentially lethal overdose.

The issue has forced the county into some uncharted territory regarding law enforcement. Sheriff Ty Trenary has refused to take addicts into his jail, saying the facility is not equipped to safely treat them.

The sheriff has also started teaming deputies up with social workers who offer homeless addicts treatment and a way out of addiction instead of arrest.

Bud McCurry is one of those deputies.
 
"People are dying out here," he said, clearing out a homeless camp littered with garbage, used needles and human waste.

McCurry said the overwhelming majority of addicts in the camps are good people. On Tuesday, he offered a Marysville couple a ride to treatment, help with sober living, and even assistance in finding a job.

"It was kind of a one-two punch," said McCurry. "Their house burned down and apparently they lost a child at the same time. People use all kinds of coping skills to deal with their trauma and their grief. Some people turn to drugs."

The couple did not take McCurry up on his offer.

While waiting for help from the federal government, cities are doing what they can to turn back the rising tide of addiction.

In Edmonds, officials unveiled a new program that will help people properly dispense of dangerous drugs that could end up in the wrong hands.

MED-Project provides kiosks for people to safely dispose of their prescriptions. The kiosks are fully funded by pharmaceutical makers. MED-Project replaces previous programs that were taxpayer funded.
  
The publicly-funded programs proved so successful that police property rooms were packed with pills, said Snohomish County Interim-Administrator for Public Health Jeff Ketchel.
  
Ketchel said the new commission's report is a good start but it has to be put into action.

"Once you look at the facts you realize if you ignore this problem it's just going to get worse," he said. "We have evidence-based solutions that we can take to keep new people from becoming addicted as well as getting treatment for those who already are."

The commission's report also recommends expanding Medicaid for drug treatment–a program the president has vowed to slash in spite of his promises to voters to cure the drug crisis.

Earlier this year, the city of Everett became the first in the nation to sue the maker of the drug Oxycontin. The suit alleges Purdue Pharma knowingly supplied the powerful painkiller to doctors who were over-prescribing, helping create the epidemic the country is currently experiencing.
  
The suit is currently being reviewed by a judge.

In 2016, 809 people died from opioid overdoses statewide.

© 2017 KING-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
TRENDING VIDEOS
More Stories