Submitted by Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

The opioid and overdose crisis are national issues with few easy answers. Overdoses impact people and the community in many ways, with ripples that can be felt across families, generations, communities, and last lifetimes. Locally, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services (TCPHSS) facilitates the Thurston County Opioid Response Task Force. As part of this work, the Overdose Workgroup of the Thurston County Opioid Response Task Force will be hosting an event in Olympia on August 31 to remember International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). IOAD is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, it is a day to remember those who have died from overdose without stigma and acknowledge the grief of family and friends left behind.

This year’s event is being held at Heritage Park in Olympia on Thursday, August 31 from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. There will be a resource fair with over 30 community agencies present from 1 p.m. -5 p.m. Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department will offer naloxone training, information about how to access medications for Opioid Use Disorder, information on safe medication and disposal, along with a memorial table to remember those who have died from an overdose.  All are welcome.

Opioids in Thurston County

Thurston County Public Health and Social Services reports that the health impacts of opioids on local community members are significant. In June 2018, the epidemic was declared a public health crisis in our county by the Thurston County Board of Health. This led to the creation of the Thurston County Opioid Response Task Force, which works to monitor and facilitate changes to their ongoing response and stay up to date in order to make changes to their response plan as needed. The response plan has been updated twice over the past several years to account for the community’s changing environment.

The Thurston County Opioid Response Plan uses a community approach emphasizing advancing equity, reducing stigma, eliminating barriers, and creating opportunities. The Task Force aims to help all groups and populations and prioritize a focus on impacted populations like Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), youth, unhoused residents, individuals with language barriers, or those involved with the criminal and legal systems.

Though used by the healthcare industry, fentanyl is also available as an unregulated or illicit “street” drug. It comes in powder, rock, or pill form and can be mixed with other drugs. Because of its strength, it is all too often involved in fatal overdoses. A majority of the opioid overdoses in Thurston County are attributed to fentanyl, which makes it increasingly important for everyone to carry naloxone and know how to respond to an opioid overdose to save a life.

International Overdose Awareness Day event information purple background, with purple hearts and orange star. Text says 'Join us to: remember those who have been lost to fatal drug overdoses, celebrate those who have been rescued from or assisted in rescuing someone from an overdose, help reduce the stigma of overdose and drug use, share the day with 20+ organizations who have information, free stuff and more. Nalozone training, memorial altar, resource tables, crafting'
Photo courtesy: Thurston County Public Health and Social Services

What to Do if you Suspect an Opioid Overdose

If you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids, the first step recommended is checking for a response. See if you can get the person to respond using a loud voice or by tapping them, and then rub your knuckles across their sternum. If no response, call 911 and let them know where you are and that someone is not breathing or is unconscious. Administer naloxone if you have it and follow directions from the 911 operator. If the individual wakes up and starts breathing, stay with them. Encourage them to obtain follow-up medical care.

Naloxone, the generic form of NARCAN Nasal Spray, is a life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose. Both are available through health insurance and at local pharmacies. Naloxone can now be mail ordered – at no cost – through the state Stop Overdose website. People should have naloxone available to them, at home, school, and work. By carrying naloxone, you reduce response time in the event you see an overdose.

Thurston County Opioid Response

Local workplaces, agencies, schools, and events can receive Overdose Education & Naloxone Rescue Kit Training thanks to the Thurston County Opioid Response Program. To learn more, contact Kateri Wimsett at kateri.wimsett@co.thurston.wa.us.

Want to learn more about the Thurston County Opioid Response Task Force? You can find details and minutes of past meetings or the date and time of upcoming meetings through their website. Ask to be added to the mailing list by contacting Katie Strozyk at katie.strozyk@co.thurston.wa.us.

If you or someone you love needs TCPHSS services, call 360-867-2500 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to speak with them about available options. And remember, in the case of an emergency, dial 911 immediately.

Follow TCPHSS on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates, events, news, and the latest research. We’re all in this together and working together is how we’ll succeed.


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