Submitted by Thurston County Public Health & Social Services
Katie Strozyk is smart, sharp-witted, and compassionate—and she knows better than most that solving the opioid epidemic is going to take everyone pulling together. All you have to do is listen to the news to know that opioids are a hot topic. Thurston County’s own Board of Health proclaimed that the opioid epidemic was a public health crisis. That resolution shares that opioids have “led to a nationwide epidemic of opioid misuse, abuse, dependency, overdoses, and opioid related deaths.” We also know that because the use of opioids can lead to lots of social impacts for the individuals and for their families. “The opioid epidemic affects our communities, devastates families, and overwhelms our health care, social services, law enforcement, and judicial systems.”
Given the depth, and extent, of the problem, it’s easy to understand that there’s no easy answer—and no one solution. As the new coordinator for the Opioid Recovery program at Thurston County, Katie will be leading the Thurston County Opioid Task Force—a group with similar partners, but three times the size. Katie says she’s “It’s great to be working with people who understand that drug user health IS public health. I’m excited by how eager everyone is to collaborate with each other. Often, that’s one of the biggest barriers.”
While working at Lewis County public Health, Katie acted as a liaison to their Behavioral Health Organization to help with behavioral health capacity building and integration planning. She also started the Lewis County Opioid Task Force—a coalition of providers, government and justice representatives, and others, interested in working together to both prevent opioid use, and to help others with recovery.
Here in Thurston County, Katie will be working with current partnerships to help them develop new and innovative programing to address changes in the epidemic. “That’s one of the biggest challenges,” she shared. “The opioid epidemic isn’t a discrete issue. It’s not ‘do these three things’ and you’re done. It’s always changing, and it’s ongoing. That means we have to have adaptive goals and practices, and we have to communicate well with one another, and with the public.”
In fact, the Thurston County Opioid Task Force has a response plan. That plan is focused on five goals:
- Preventing opioid misuse, abuse and dependency by improving prescribing practices.
- Treating opioid abuse and dependence through expanded access to treatment.
- Preventing deaths from overdose by working to educate and expand the distribution of naloxone to individuals who use drugs and educating individuals about the signs of an overdose.
- Using existing data and enhancing data collection efforts to detect opioid and other illicit drug misuse/abuse and scientific evidence to inform the selection of strategies.
- Identifying and implementing innovative strategies that reduce the risk of overdose to individuals and diverse communities that are disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic and reduce stigma.
Through the work of the task force, Katie looks forward to expanding both communication programs, and access to harm reduction services, as well as medication assisted treatment. Because the process of recovery is complex, there are goals that cross over all kinds of social issues. Housing, medical assistance, social services support systems are all part of the process of building strong supports for recovery.
In addition to finishing up her Masters degree in Public Health, Katie loves to bake (especially desserts), and she’s a big fan of horror movies (e.g.; Rob Zombie, Saw), as well as Harry Potter. With all that creativity and experience, Thurston County is really lucky to have her working to build relationships and find solutions to the opioid epidemic in our county.