Washington Governor Signs Order to Address Opioid Misuse

According to the governor's office, opioid overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in nearly every part of Washington state, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and firearm-related deaths, and 718 people died from opioid overdoses in Washington last year.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order Oct. 7 directing state agencies to work with local public health organizations, law enforcement, tribal governments, and other partners to implement a Statewide Opioid Response Plan, focusing immediately on the highest-priority actions, and telling them to submit a progress report by Dec. 31, 2016, ahead of the next legislative session.

"Today is a day of solidarity, a day of renewed resolution, and a day of action where we stand together to say enough is enough. We all have an important role to play in the statewide movement to fight one of the most devastating crises facing our communities today — the public health crisis of opioids and heroin," Inslee said.

"Opioid use disorder is a preventable and treatable chronic disease, much like diabetes or heart disease, and needs to be treated as such," added State Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

The executive order was announced at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle with more than 100 county and city leaders, medical professionals, and family members affected by opioid use disorder in attendance.

According to the governor's office, opioid overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in nearly every part of Washington state, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and firearm-related deaths, and 718 people died from opioid overdoses in Washington last year. During the first three months of this year, at least 188 more died from opioid overdose. And while prescription opioid drug deaths have declined, heroin overdose deaths are increasing, particularly among young people.

"The solutions are multi-faceted and range from prevention education to syringe services and the availability of effective treatment options," said Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director at the state Department of Labor & Industries, UW research professor, and chair of the State Agency Medical Directors Group. "Washington results have been strong — a 37 percent sustained reduction in prescription opioid-associated deaths, the biggest decline in the nation. However, more needs to be done to save lives."

The executive order focuses on these four major goals:

  • Prevent inappropriate opioid prescriptions and use
  • Treat people with opioid use disorder and connect them to support services, including housing
  • Save lives by intervening in overdoses
  • Use data to focus and improve our work

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