Skagit County wants local opioid data

December 18, 2018

In order to better fight the opioid epidemic, Skagit County Public Health is seeking local data.

The Skagit County commissioners are set to consider in January whether to require hospitals and emergency medical services providers to report both fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses to Public Health.

Joanne Lynn, communicable disease and environmental health manager with Public Health, said such reporting will help staff understand how to deal with the effects of the epidemic.

“Until we can wrap our hands around the data, we’re just not able to make a reliable response,” she said.

Currently, data on opioid overdoses is collected by the state Department of Health. By the time the county sees this data, Lynn said it’s often months old.

The data is presented regionally — not by county — which Lynn said inhibits Public Health’s ability to learn things that may be specific to Skagit County.

She said the data provided by the state does not include demographic information, such as age or location in the county.

Collecting data locally will help Public Health learn more about the people who are treated for overdoses and understand which areas of the county are more at risk, Lynn said.

“If we get naloxone out to certain communities, that will pay off by saving lives,” she said, referring to the drug used to treat opioid overdoses.

Under the proposed policy, hospitals and EMS providers would need to report instances of overdoses to the county within 72 hours, she said.

This shouldn’t cost these agencies anything extra, and the county doesn’t plan to hire additional staff to collect the data, she said.

Lynn said health providers are already obligated to report things such as lead poisoning or certain infectious diseases, which require intervention from her department.

Opioid overdoses deserve the same level of attention, she said.

She said the only counties she knows of with a similar program are Mason and Clallam counties.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing to address the proposed policy at 9 a.m. Jan. 8. Public comment will be accepted.

The department is also accepting written comments until Jan 7. More information is available at skagitcounty.net/opioids.

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