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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 01:29 PM

Snohomish County to stop providing opioid reversal drug to officers

EVERETT — When first introduced several years ago, emergency workers considered it a miracle drug for its ability to seemingly bring back people from the edge of death.

Starting next year, Snohomish County will no longer provide naloxone, the life-saving drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, to local law enforcement agencies. More than 250 kits have been used since mid-2015 through August 2019.

The county informed police departments in late June about the change, leaving cities in a bind, said Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, an Edmonds city councilmember and member of the Snohomish Health District board.

“I’m very, very concerned this is going to increase deaths in our county,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Is this just going to be a drug for the affluent communities who can afford it?”

The county spends $45,000 to $50,000 a year to supply naloxone through a pilot program that was launched in 2015 with money from federal grants. Since then, local, state and federal funds have supported the program, which includes naloxone kits, training and a tracking system, according to Mary Jane Brell Vujovic, director of the county’s Human Service Department.

The naloxone nasal spray cannot harm the patient and is much simpler to administer compared to injections given by paramedics. It blocks the effects of opioid overdose, which includes shallow breathing. If administered in time, it can reverse overdose symptoms within a couple of minutes. It’s typically used on people who have overdosed on heroin or other opioid painkillers, such as morphine, oxycodone and Vicodin.

The county never intended to fund the program indefinitely, said Anji Jorstad, a mental health supervisor at the county. The pilot was launched to see if officers carrying naloxone would be beneficial, she added. And at the time, the county was the only place law enforcement agencies could get the drug.


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