CDC looks to combat opioid crisis

Jimmy Hall
Posted 7/24/18

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within a 16-year span, more than 183,000 Americans died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Every day, 1,000 people or …

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CDC looks to combat opioid crisis


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within a 16-year span, more than 183,000 Americans died from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Every day, 1,000 people or more are treated for misusing pain relievers in emergency departments and 40 people or more die from overdosing.

Thomas Locke, health officer for Jefferson County Public Health brought the epidemic to the forefront of the Jefferson County Board of Health’s attention at its meeting July 19.

“I thought this was worth sharing with the board. It outlines what the CDC says what Public Health approach to dealing with this,” Locke said.

The handout given to each member of the board focused on overprescription of opioids and the non-prescribed use of opiates.

“There are different messages being developed,” he said.

According to the printed material, the “Rx Awareness campaign focuses on adults ages 25-54 who have taken opioids at least once for medical or nonmedical use.”

The campaign’s  goals are to increase awareness of the addictive and dangerous nature of opioids, as well as increase the number of those who will avoid using the drug recreationally or who will choose other options for safe and effective pain management.

“We haven't solved the problem of reducing prescribed opiates ... what we are doing there is slowing the rate of addiction in the population to prevent new people with opiate abuse disorder,” Locke said. “Those who have already became addicted have a long and costly process in dealing with that.”

CDC’s campaign will include a multi-faceted approach including digital ads and videos, a website focused on the issue, radio advertising, billboards and newspaper spots.

Locke noted the drugs lose their effectiveness over a short time.

“Even for acute pain, it's estimated that about 11 percent of the population are out and out hardwired for addiction,” Locke said. “Even if it's habitual, they don't have to kill you.”

Answering a question from the board, Locke reported there was a shift from the CDC's view, that showed a turn of mindset from criminal justice to a more health-related perspective.

“There is still a lot of stigma. The criminal justice system is very much involved,” he said.

As requested from the June meeting, Public Health Nurse Lisa McKenzie gave a demonstration of naloxone training, which is used to treat those who are overdosing from opiates. Also to help curb drug overdose and theft, Locke spoke about the Washington Drug Take-Back Act ESHB 1047. Locke said the board had authority to adopt a medicine deterrence ordinance, which saw seven counties take action in passing similar ordinance, including Kitsap and Clallam counties, but have not taken effect yet. Locke went on to say the state code was comprehensive to cover local codes and more.

“Eventually, it will supersede the local codes,” he said. “The only downside of having a local code is the actual implementation will not be until 2020.”

Locke said the statewide approach was the most optimal way to conduct the drug take back programs on the local level.

In keeping health providers in the know about all things health related, Locke also brought attention to firearms off the heels of a Seattle and King County push to make firearms a matter of public safety.

“It’s specifically targeted to what health care providers can do in their practice to try to address this,” Locke said.

In order to accomplish this, the two governmental entities look to gather data, identify risk factors, develop and evaluate interventions and promote the adoption of successful prevention strategies.”

As firearm-related questions are not allowed on government questionnaires such as the census, Locke remembered in the 1990s when they would be able to purchase additional surveys to give them “much more reliable and small-area analyzable statistics for the county.”

In Clallam County, they asked gun-related questions, Locke said, adding one of the most striking finding was the percentage of households without any sort of safety devices and small children.

Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean said when there is a presence of gun, there is an increased risk to safety.


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