Rural Community Is Treating Opioid Problem Like Natural Disaster

The opioid epidemic is hitting rural communities across the U.S. hard – and, in fact, a  recent poll found that it’s the most urgent health problem facing rural Americans. A whopping 48 percent of poll respondents said opioid addiction has worsened over the past five years. But what’s the solution?

Should the current opioid crisis be treated like a natural disaster? That’s the unique approach a rural community in Washington is taking as they fight against the increasing rates of overdoses.

Members of Snohomish County in Western Washington are responding to the drug crisis the same way they did a massive landslide in 2014, during which government agencies worked together with the same objective: life safety.

The county’s Multi-Agency Coordination group, or MAC group, meets every two weeks and includes representatives from across local government as well as people in charge of everything from firetrucks to garbage collection. To date, MAC has seven big, overarching goals as well as small goals, including:

  • Distributing needle cleanup kits.
  • Training schoolteachers to recognize trauma and addiction.
  • Making transportation easier for people in drug treatment.
  • Training family members and community members on overdose reversal.

The key is to be realistic, says director of communications for the sheriff’s office, Shari Ireton, who is also the spokesperson for MAC group. “You are never going to be successful if your goal is just ‘end the opioid epidemic.’ By breaking it down, it’s like eating an elephant. You just can eat one piece at a time. Breaking it down into a piece that you can actually digest.”

Help for Opioid Addiction
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