Fighting the opioid epidemic by understanding it (02/11/2018 Herald Commentary)

COLUMNIST

Commentary: Fighting the opioid epidemic by understanding it

Just as a doctor would, we need to fully assess the patient and his or her particular condition.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of commentaries examining Snohomish County’s opioid crisis from different perspectives.

By Mark Beatty

Over the last two weeks, you’ve heard from Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Sheriff Ty Trenary about how agencies across the county are collaborating in a new — but still familiar — ways to tackle the opioid crisis. By coming together as we do in emergencies, we can work across sectors to start thinking out of the box to find real solutions to this complex problem.

As your health officer, I am required by state law to take actions needed to maintain the health of Snohomish County. That includes controlling and preventing the spread of any dangerous disease. And that is what the opioid misuse and abuse is — a life-threatening disease.

I’ve stated before that the scope of the opioid epidemic is likely far greater than any one of us can appreciate. That is why data is critical to the goals and objectives laid out by our multi-agency response group. It allows us to determine the true size of the problem, specifically the number of people afflicted with this disease, so we can ensure the proper location and amount of services are available to meet the need. Data will also help us to target our interventions across agencies, as well as hone the information needed to educate and prevent further addiction.

Just as a physician would do with any other disease, we need to fully assess the patient and his or her particular condition. A diagnosis should be followed with a customized treatment plan that can be targeted to achieve the best possible outcomes. This includes gathering information about personal and environmental factors to identify any barriers to receiving treatment. Finally, there are check-ups and testing done to confirm the treatment plan is working.

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