Stephanie Wright is new chair of Snohomish County Board of Health
Last updated 2/28/2019 at Noon
Snohomish County Councilmember Stephanie Wright whose Third District includes Edmonds, Woodway and Lynnwood is the new chair of the Snohomish County Board of Health, comprised of city and county elected officials who oversee the policies and budget of the Snohomish Health District.
Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas was chair in 2017 and 2018 with Wright as the co-chair and will be honored at a Board of Health meeting March 12.
Those two years were certainly busy for Fraley-Monillas, as the board hired a new health officer, Mark Beatty, and a new administrator, Jeff Kutchel. The chair of the health board acts as the hiring authority with input from a select committee.
An overriding concern for Snohomish County, and for Edmonds, has been and continues to be the increasing opioid crisis.
“One of my biggest accomplishments over the past two years has been the work the health district has done on opioid abuse,” Fraley-Monillas said, who has worked on the board in various capacities for about eight years.
“The health district stands at the front of our epidemic in the state of Washington. I am most proud of all the work that the staff and the Board of Health has done to combat this disease.”
Fraley-Monillas said the district was the first in the state to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for the drug take-back program with associated costs, providing needle clean-up kits and investing in safe medication bags.
During Fraley-Monillas’ time as chair of the health district, the board worked closely with County Executive Dave Somers to create the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group. It’s a multi-jurisdictional commission that is slowly making progress on the opioid front lines.
“I will continue to serve on the health board in the role as an executive committee member and sounding board for our new chair Stephanie Wright as past chair,” Fraley-Monillas said. “I will also continue to look forward to working for the Edmonds council task force for the community of Edmonds in the opioid epidemic.”
City councilmembers council created a commission last year, and authorized $250,000 to address the issue of opioid abuse in Edmonds.
“We look forward to poring over the comprehensive health district report on opioids and defining what that means for the Edmonds citizens,” Fraley-Monillas said.
“Defining who is overdosing and where they are overdosing within our city. Although the mayor’s office removed the unspent $250,000 from the budget allocated for this disease, I am willing to find funds if necessary within the city’s budget to address the needs that will come out of this committee for our citizens.”
The chair of the Health Board presides over the monthly board and executive committee meetings, sets the agendas and makes appointments to all standing and ad-hoc committees, among other things.
“In addition,” Wright said, “this year we will be replacing our strategic plan and working closely with the cities to make sure it reflects their priorities. The Health District is also prioritizing a request to the legislature to provide ongoing funding for Foundation Public Health.”
In a recent report, the Snohomish Health District estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in Snohomish County are suffering from opioid use disorder. It’s likely that another 35,000 to 80,000 people are misusing opioids.
The data is the result of several months of in-depth research and analysis completed by health officer Mark Beatty in a report called “Opioid Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse in Snohomish County: Using Capture-Recapture to Estimate the Burden of Disease.”
Beatty accessed FirstWatch a proprietary record management system used for EMS calls across the county to pull data for all overdose calls recorded in July 2018. During that month, there were 73 opioid-related overdoses identified.
Using data compiled by Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and the Health District, Beatty then reviewed patients seen in the emergency department. Of those 29 overdose patients at the hospital, 18 were also found in the FirstWatch data.
That number translates into approximately 1,400 people in Snohomish County hospitalized annually because of opioids.
“Heroin, fentanyl and other opioids continue to cause our community grave harm,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said. “By better understanding the negative impacts from opioids, we are better positioned to stop the suffering and crime. I applaud the efforts of the Snohomish Health District to keep us all better informed.”
The Health District aims to gather better information on the supply and demand of treatment options.
The goal is to refine estimates of people who express interest in treatment, survey the current treatment landscape, and identify gaps by comparing interest with available services.
Wright, who was the board chair in 2014, agrees the opioid issue is a top priority.
“We have to continue to understand the situation better, so we can identify new tools and resources that both human services and law enforcement can use to address the issue, and its impacts on our citizens and community.”
More information on efforts being done through the Opioid Response MAC Group can be found at snohomishoverdoseprevention.com.