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Snohomish County executive releases new plan to address drug crisis

The mutli-agency group will be tasked with developing plans to reduce drug-related deaths and reduce the number of people suffering from substance use disorder.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers released a new plan on Thursday aiming to address the impacts of the drug crisis on residents and businesses.

Somers' plan includes an executive directive and a spending plan for the county's $1.4 million opioid settlement that will be transmitted to the Snohomish County Council. In a release, Somers said the spending plan would be focused on a community-centered response to the crisis. 

The executive directive will be issued to the Department of Emergency Management, directing the department to convene a Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group, which will organize different agencies including Fire/EMS resources, housing and human services, public health and medical services, public safety and other regional partners in the county's pursuit of addressing the drug crisis. 

The MAC Group will be charged with coming up with a list of goals, a plan to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and mitigate the impact of the crisis on property and public safety, and long-term strategies to reduce the number of people suffering from substance use disorder within the county. 

The group's work will be assessed and approved by a new Disaster Policy Group led by Somers and the heads of impacted agencies. 

Somers' spending proposal for a portion of the county's opioid settlement money is broken into two different phases. 

In the first phase, Somers proposed the county spends around $670,000 focusing on immediate-term actions and building infrastructure for future phases of addressing the drug crisis. This would include expanding the county's First Responder Leave-Behind Program by making naloxone more readily available to fire and EMS, funding community-based organizations looking to expand grassroots opioid-related efforts and increasing education efforts. 

Phase two would include a total of $800,000 dedicated to longer-term proposals, likely including school-based education to mitigate substance use disorder among youth and creating a mobile resource to provide medication-assisted treatment and/or counseling for people suffering from substance use disorder throughout the county. 

The county is set to receive approximately $14 million in total from settlements with pharmaceutical companies over their role in the opioid crisis. The county also anticipates that there will be future settlements related to the crisis that will bolster funding.

Somers, who lost his own brother to a fentanyl overdose this year, said policy debates surrounding the drug crisis can often overlook the real human suffering at the center of the issue. 

“I was twelve when he was born, my mom was just on her descent into really terrible alcoholism. So Alan grew up, surrounded by trauma and really mental abuse, you know, frankly, it was really a horrible situation,” Somers said.

Somers said his brother was clean for 10 years before his overdose.

“He was a very smart guy who's funny, personable He had his own contracting business, worked hard, but he was plagued with substance abuse issues.”

That’s why Somers is fighting the issue.

“It's a story that's told, in many, many, many families throughout, you know, our communities.”

When it comes to sharing his family’s story, Somers said it’s helping others share theirs.

“I don't feel any shame, I feel sadness. Nobody should feel shame about this. We just need to come together to help fix it help these people.”

In 2022, the county lost 284 people to fatal overdoses. Between 2017 and 2022, overdoses more than doubled in the county. The number of overdoses involving fentanyl increased eightfold. The county has already exceeded 80 overdoses in 2023, with over half tied to fentanyl.

On Wednesday seven inmates at the Snohomish County Jail in Everett were taken to the hospital for suspected opioid overdoses. All seven were administered Narcan on scene and are expected to recover.

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