Clallam commissioner: Gains seen in opioid epidemic

Mark Ozias

Mark Ozias

PORT ANGELES — Health officials in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties have made progress in their fight against the opioid epidemic, Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias told fellow commissioners.

Ozias attended the second annual Olympic Community of Health opioid summit Oct. 17 at Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort and reported on it last Tuesday.

“If I had to summarize my most significant takeaway, it’s that we’ve actually made some pretty substantial and noteworthy progress across our three counties in a very short period of time,” said Ozias, who serves on an Olympic Community of Health steering committee.

Olympic Community of Health encompasses Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties.

The annual summits are part of a Medicaid-funded, three-county coordinated opioid response project that is based on three main goals.

The goals are:

• Prevent opioid misuse and abuse.

• Treat opioid use disorder.

• Reduce opioid overdose deaths.

The list of speakers at the summit included Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer; Wendy Sisk, Peninsula Behavioral Health CEO; Dr. Kate Weller, North Olympic Healthcare Network chief medical officer; and Siri Kushner, Kitsap Public Health District epidemiologist.

“They reported on a number of improvements and gains that we’ve made in a really pretty short period of time in all three of these arenas,” Ozias said.

“For example, in the prevention arena, in Clallam County the trend of opiate prescriptions is decreasing.”

Clallam County medical providers were prescribing opioid-based pills at three times the state average two years ago, Ozias said.

Area providers are now prescribing opioids at less than twice the state average, he said.

“It’s still a higher prescription rate than average, but a significant reduction in a short period of time,” said Ozias, who attributed the decrease to “some pretty aggressive education and outreach to physicians.”

Local health departments have secured funding for medically-assisted opioid treatments such as Suboxone, which kills cravings for heroin, and prescription narcotics such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.

In 2016, the Clallam County jail became the first county jail on the West Coast to offer a medically-assisted treatment program for inmates.

The Olympic Community of Health is working to educate providers and “build connections between traditional abstinence-based treatment models and medically-assisted treatment models,” Ozias said.

Clallam County was the first county in the state to make opioid overdose deaths a reportable condition, beginning in 2016.

“While opioid deaths are down in Clallam County, and we’re hoping that that trend is going to be sustained, prescription opioids are still by almost a factor of two the largest cause of opioid-related overdoses in Clallam County,” Ozias said.

The opioid summit was attended by about 300, Ozias said.

“It’s good to hear that there’s progress,” Commissioner Bill Peach said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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