The Opioid Epidemic in Washington

Ginny Weir, MPH
Board of Directors, Washington State Public Health Association
Program Director, Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative
January 1, 2018

The opioid epidemic has impacted every community in Washington State. Across the country, opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death. But some counties are hit harder than others and disparities exist between how racial and ethnic groups are burdened with the epidemic. Solutions must be both based in local communities and supported across the state. Our Washington state opioid response plan calls on all of us, state government agencies, local health departments, professional groups, community organizations, health care systems, and others to work together on priority areas:

  • Prevent opioid misuse and abuse.

  • Identify and treat opioid use disorder.

  • Prevent deaths from overdose.

  • Use data to detect opioid misuse/abuse, monitor morbidity and mortality, and evaluate interventions

This is echoed in our Governor’s 2016 executive order calling for prevention of inappropriate opioid prescribing, opioid use disorder treatment, interventions to prevent death from overdose, and better use of data. The Accountable Communities of Health, nine regional organizations in our state that bring together leaders and resources in their local communities to build a better system of health, are also all focused on appropriate opioid prescribing and increased access to treatment through Medicaid transformation. The Bree Collaborative, Governor-appointed health care leaders who identify specific ways to increase health care quality, outcomes, and affordability have developed fact sheets for patients and providers in collaboration with the Washington Health Alliance, metrics to track appropriate opioid prescribing in alignment with state and national guidelines, and guidelines for dentists on prescribing opioids for acute pain management.

Read the 2015 Washington State Agency Medical Directors Group Interagency Guideline on Prescribing Opioids for Pain and Summary

Read the 2016 Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

You can learn more about what our state and country is doing below:

Join us as we work together to build healthier communities.