The Eastern Washington Opioid Consortium enhances prevention, education and treatment efforts to better address opioid use disorders and promote community wellness, particularly for underserved populations who may have limited literacy and/or English-speaking skills and who may experience cultural and informational isolation
Rural and underserved populations will be connected to the people, places and resources that enable them to better understand and successfully prevent, manage and/or recover from opioid use disorders, optimizing healthy lives and healthy communities.
Statement of the Problem (The Opioid Epidemic)
Opioid misuse, abuse and addiction have reached epidemic proportions across the United States. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and other national clearinghouses of public health data are alarming. The overdose deaths associated with drugs such as heroin and the synthetic fentanyl analogs has been documented at over 70,000 annually. Rural and medically underserved communities have been hit especially hard by the epidemic, including several counties in Washington state. The overdose deaths are in reality just the tip of the iceberg in that there are many more impacts that opioid use disorders have on the individual, the healthcare system and the communities in which they live.
The economic costs (direct and indirect) to the United States are estimated to be over 500 billion dollars annually. Senator Patty Murray used the Washington State statistics indicating that the opioid crisis cost $9 billion in 2016 in treatment, health care expenses, deaths, justice system and lost productivity. The actual cost of deaths related to opioids reached $34 billion from the years 2012-2016. According to the Yakima Health District’s representative Lilian Bravo, a member of the Yakima Valley Opioid Consortium, the Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health (GCACH) had an increase of 13.3% opioid related deaths and 9.8% opioid hospitalizations of Washington State. GCACH is composed of 9 eastern Washington State counties (Yakima. Kittitas, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Whitman and Asotin).
The sheer number of people seeking treatment for chronic pain and substance use disorders is overwhelming healthcare professionals who are many times ill prepared and ill equipped to manage these challenging chromonic diseases. Resources and coordination of services are also lacking in effective approaches aimed at prevention and early detection/treatment. The heavy stigma associated with these diseases and lack of cultural sensitivity to the most vulnerable populations further impedes efforts to mitigate risk and impact. There are broader substance use disorders, comorbidities and mental health issues that add to the challenges.
Given the aforementioned complexity and wide impact that the opioid crisis is having in Washington state, a broader community-wide based plan needs to be trialed to see if it can result in health-related outcomes and minimize the socioeconomic impact of the disease. A broad consortium of stakeholders is needed to thoughtfully plan and implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at prevention, early intervention and long-term recovery. By trialing some unique and innovative approaches to a targeted population, outcomes measures and rapid modifications (as needed) can be completed in order to determine the impact and cost-effectiveness of the interventions. Assuming positive outcomes, the program could be scaled and tailored to meet the needs of additional communities and counties in Washington state.
ESHB1109 provides funds for Northwest Community Education Center Radio KDNA (NCEC/KDNA) to create a radio media campaign and host events which will reach underserved populations, who may have limited literacy and who may experience cultural and informational isolation, in order to address prevention, education, and treatment for opioid use disorder or those at risk for opioid use.
- create a radio media campaign to address opioid overdose prevention,
- host four workshops on opioid use prevention and treatment, and
- host two conferences on opioid use prevention and treatment