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Snohomish County launches second opioid point in time count

Snohomish County’s first overdose Point in Time Count was eye-opening.

Unlike annual homeless counts, which occur during a single night, the Snohomish County Health District’s Point in Time Count happens over seven days to create a snapshot of overdoses in the county.

Fire, police, paramedics, health clinics, hospitals and other county agencies team up to track the number of both fatal and non-fatal overdoses in that period, along with where they happened, the drugs involved, and details about the people who overdosed.

“It helps all of us — the government agencies and service providers — have a better idea of just how widespread the impact of the opioid epidemic is as well as other drugs like meth,” said Shari Ireton with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

The county health district conducted the count for the first time last year. Over that seven-day period there were 37 opioid-related overdoses reported, including 10 in one day. Three of the overdoses were fatal.

But the breakdown of those overdose numbers was what was really shocking.

“Just how it’s really hitting all sets of our community,” said Ireton. “We had, you know, kids on that list, we had elderly people into their 70s and 80s. It’s not just overdoses that are showing up at the emergency rooms it’s those being responded to out in the field by patrol, EMS and it was all over the county, it’s not just on one spot.”

This year, the county’s Multi-Agency Coordination Group, or MAC, is taking a deeper dive with the count to try to get a more detailed look the crisis so they can be better prepared. The group was formed in response to the opioid epidemic.

Among those taking part in the count are the County Office of Neighborhoods’ embedded social worker teams. The county has a half-dozen such teams, comprised of specially trained sheriff’s deputies paired with social workers. The teams conduct outreach in homeless encampments and on the streets to try to lure those with addiction issues off the streets and into treatment.

During the first day of the count, KIRO Radio accompanied one of the teams on an outreach effort to an encampment in a deep wooded area on private property in South Everett

Deputy Bud McCurry and social worker Elisa Delgado led us through the woods where we came across mounds of garbage, scattered needles, human waste and multiple tents. As we came across each tent Deputy McClurry used his baton to knock and announce his presence, “Police, is anybody in there?” he would ask.

Most of the roughly half-dozen tents we came across had no one inside. But deep back into the woods along a side trail we came across two tents. In one, a man and a woman who said they were there to clean it out and get someone else’s things. The woman said she was getting methadone treatment. They were told they were trespassing and warned to leave and while we were there they began moving things out.

In a tent right behind them we came across Mike, an older man the team had come across multiple times over the past couple of years.

Deputy McClurry asked, “What do we have to do to get you out of here?”

“I’m trying to get back on my feet,” Mike replied.

He had drug and mental health issues but told the deputies he was ready to be done with that lifestyle and ready to move on. That’s when social worker Elisa DelGado moved in and tried to set up an appointment with Mike so they could talk about options. He agreed. Later this week the team will pick him up in front of the encampment and take him to lunch to try to get him into the county’s new diversion center.

The diversion center is a 44-bed facility that has been open for approximately one month. Willing participants can spend up to 15 days at the facility, which offers a bed, showers, meals, and more, including addiction treatment.

The outreach teams work closely with those who agree to come to the diversion center and while they are there get them lined up with a treatment facility – nearly always out of the county – and take them to the facility when a bed opens. When treatment is complete, the teams go pick them up and get them in to a sober living home and help them navigate the system for everything from housing to finding a job, medical appointments, and transportation.

There are eight people in the diversion center right now. Several have passed through and gone on to get treatment since it opened.

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