While President Donald Trump stopped short of declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, communities across the nation including the South Sound have already started to address the crisis in their backyard.
"We won't wait for the federal government. If they don't take some action we will do something here locally," said Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young, who is part of a county wide taskforce that’s studying and recommending action items for the opioid epidemic in the Pierce County area.
Pierce County councilmembers signed a letter Tuesday to send to Governor Jay Inslee to urge him to declare Pierce County in a state of emergency in the opioid crisis.
"I think the biggest challenge is probably the addictiveness of these drugs," Young said.
That's a challenge the City of Tacoma is ready to address head on.
"We've obtained legal counsel, outside counsel to look at possible litigation against some of the manufacturers,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “We know that in some cases one manufacturer paid $35 million because they were misrepresenting the dangers of opioids and it got into the black market."
Strickland said the city is also looking at how people can get access to medical assistance.
"It's easier to get opioids than it is to get help for opioid addiction,” she said. “So, what are we doing within our mental health system, our substance abuse system to make sure people have access to it."
But with the president stopping short of declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, Young hopes it won’t shut the door to resources.
"We could use a lot of funding because that medically assisted treatment that we know is successful is extremely expensive," Young said.
In the end, both city and county leaders say much of the battle to end the opioid epidemic will be with local communities.
"It's hard to wrap your brain around just how difficult this is going to be, but we don't have another choice but to take it head on," said Young.
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