The Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis in Snohomish County
A message from Sheriff Trenary
We have created this page to help our communities better understand the opioid crisis, the impact it has on our neighborhoods, and how your Sheriff’s Office is working to address it.
The opioid crisis is not new to Snohomish County. Ten years ago when I was serving as the Chief of Stanwood, we were beginning to see the effects heroin and abuse of prescription pills were making on our community. High school students were overdosing and dying. Fathers with good jobs were losing everything to feed an addiction. As bad as it was then, I could never have predicted was how much worse it was going to get.
The county accounts for about 11 percent of Washington’s population, but during the past five years has experienced 14 percent of all opioid-related deaths and nearly 16 percent of all heroin-related deaths in the state. Over the last two years, Snohomish County has seen 100+ opioid-related deaths (103 in 2017 and 117 in 2018). This community on average loses two people every week to opioids.
We cannot arrest our way of the opioid epidemic. In the end, it will take leadership, collaborative partnerships, communication, accountability, and trust to overcome Snohomish County’s opioid epidemic and the terrible impact it has on our communities.
-Sheriff Ty Trenary
Heroin’s Impact on Neighborhoods
The Opioid Response MAC Group: In 2017, local leaders stood up the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination Group (MAC Group). The effort builds on the emergency management system to tackle the opioid challenge with many of the same tools deployed to fight a flood, respond to a flu epidemic or to start rebuilding after an earthquake. The MAC Group in its first year completed 63 percent of the objectives it set when launched (74 of 117). Some key accomplishments:
- Reduced the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s wait time for toxicology results in fatal overdoses from an average of 15 weeks to 12 days. That’s nearly nine times sooner that family members receive answers and authorities are able to intervene in response to drug-related deaths and crimes.
- Collaborated with Workforce Snohomish to secure $2.4 million in funding to develop a comprehensive program using employment navigators to help those struggling with substance use disorder and/or homelessness obtain employment.
- Conducted focus groups with pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians to better understand the impact of the opioid epidemic from their vantage point, as well as what support is needed.
- Developed a universal system for reporting and sharing information among embedded social workers, regardless of whether they are working with police in Everett, Arlington, Marysville, Lynnwood, Edmonds or the county’s unincorporated areas. This reduces the likelihood of problems – and people – falling through the cracks.
Nuisance properties: More than 200 nuisance properties (squatters, homeless encampments, etc.) have been identified in Snohomish County – and almost all are home to heroin use. At any one time, we may have up to 85 open nuisance property investigations. Nuisance properties are addressed through a partnership with the Snohomish Health District, Human Services, Code Enforcement, the Fire Marshal, Public Works, as well as Neighborhood Watch and community groups. In 2018, the Snohomish County Council passed a nuisance property ordinance which provides clear definitions as to what constitutes a “nuisance” property and spells out the enforcement and penalties those who violate the ordinance may face.
Heroin’s Impact on Crime
A heroin addict is rarely able to hold a steady job, so theft becomes one of the easiest options to fund their addiction. Burglary rates in Snohomish County increased an average of 80% between May 2013 and May 2015. In 2017, more than 1,700 cars were stolen in Snohomish County in the first seven months - as many as were reported stolen in all of 2016.
Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force: On average, 7 cars are stolen each day in Snohomish County. More often than not, auto theft is either directly or indirectly related to drug use or trafficking. Through a partnership with the Marysville Police Department, Washington State Patrol, and the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office, SNOCAT works to reduce auto theft in the county by apprehending notorious car theives, breaking up "chop shop" operations, and through public education
Property Crimes: In addition to the North County Property Crimes Unit, property crimes detectives are assigned to each Sheriff's Office precinct and partner city. These detectives focus on crimes such as burglary, major theft, fraud and trafficking in stolen property. Often, these crimes occur to feed drug addiction or drug trafficking.
Heroin’s Impact on the Jail
The Snohomish County jail’s medical housing unit was designed to hold 24 inmates with moderate to severe medical issues. Since 2013, this unit is often at 200% capacity (52 inmates on average) with more inmates than beds - over 90% are on heroin or opioid withdrawal care. To alleviate the strain on medical facility and staff, we implemented booking restrictions in 2014.
Heroin’s Impact on Patrol
In 2015, the Snohomish County Human Services launched the Opioid Overdose Prevention Project, which trains local law enforcement and others how to administer Narcan (also known as Naloxone) to reverse an opioid-related overdose. Since implementation, over 200 lives have been saved by Snohomish County law enforcement.
Opioid Overdose and Addiction Statistics
- Snohomish County experiences around 18% of all heroin-related deaths in Washington although the county comprises only 10% of the state’s population5
- From 2011 to 2013, approximately 1 out of every 5 heroin deaths in Washington state occurred in Snohomish County5
- In 2013 alone, heroin and prescription opioid overdoses represented 2/3 of the 130 accidental overdose deaths in the county5
- Opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) killed more than 49,000 people in 2017, more than any year on record1
- 134 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose1
- The overdose death rate among women aged 30-64 increased 260% in 20171
- Heroin addiction has increased among 18-25 year olds1
Heroin and Big Pharma
- Approximately 3 out of 4 people report abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin1
- The number of opioid deaths coincides with the rise of heroin overdoses in the US3
- More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses that public health officials consider dangerously high4
The Opioid Crisis: What can I do?
- Get rid of any unwanted medications - especially opioids - through MED-Project.
- Report nuisance properties and homeless encampments to the Office of Neighborhoods
- Report suspected drug activity to the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force
The Opioid Crisis: What else can be done
- Create and enhance community partnerships – there is no one service or agency that can tackle the problem alone
- Reduce the availability of prescription opioids
- Ensure and enhance access to local prevention services
- Ensure and enhance access to local addiction treatment services
- Expand the availability of naloxone. More than 100 lives are saved every year by EMS and law enforcement in Snohomish County.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2. Snohomish County Opioid Project 3. National Institute on Drug Abuse 4. Los Angeles Times 5. Snohomish Health District 4. National Safety Council