PORT ANGELES — Reported opioid overdoses in Clallam County continue to decline, according to the most recent statistics released by Clallam County Health and Human Services.
The county has seen on average 2.75 fewer overdoses every quarter since it first began collecting the data at the beginning of 2016.
There were nine reported overdoses in the first quarter of 2017, 55 percent fewer than the 20 overdoses reported in the first quarter of 2016.
Last year, the county documented 62 opioid overdoses and at least six deaths.
On paper, there appears to be a clear trend of fewer reported overdoses, but Clallam County Health Officer Chris Frank said he wants to wait before reading too far into the stats.
“I’m really hopeful about it, but the proof is in the trend over time,” he said. “I’m hopeful it continues to trend down.”
This is the first time the county has been able to compare reported overdoses in the same quarter of two different years. He’s hoping the trend will continue into the second, third and fourth quarters.
Frank said because the numbers being dealt with are small, it’s hard to tell immediately if this is an actual trend or an anomaly.
“If that trend continues through the next quarters is probably a good indication it is real,” he said.
It’s not known if the decrease in reported overdoses means there is a decrease in overdoses, and the county doesn’t have a way to account for those that aren’t reported to first responders or hospitals.
Frank said it’s likely that as more naloxone — a drug that rapidly counteracts opioid overdoses — is distributed into the community, people are using naloxone and not calling 9-1-1.
“We would still consider that a positive sign because in general we think having more naloxone in the community has the potential to decrease life-threatening overdoses,” he said.
While it’s hard to track when naloxone is used, having people use naloxone in lieu of waiting for first responders to administer the drug is likely saving lives.
Frank said in rural areas especially, the response time could be too long for someone who has overdosed.
“Obviously a long-term goal is to have fewer people with opioid use disorders,” he said. “But you can’t help anybody when they are dead.”
The county does not yet have updated stats on opioid-related deaths and opioid-related hospitalizations for the quarter.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.