OLYMPIA – In June 2018, the Thurston County Board of Health declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis in Thurston County. Recently, the Thurston County Board of Health approved the Opioid Response Plan, resulting from 11 months of planning by 38 organizations and 91 individual participants, including criminal justice, local government, and non-profit representatives.


Board of Health Chair John Hutchings stated, “This is one of the greatest public health crises of our time and I’m proud that Thurston County is leading the way to take proactive steps to help those suffering with opioid addiction and stop this crisis in its tracks with the support of our task force and Thurston County’s new Opioid Coordinator.”


That plan identifies six goals and 25 response strategies. Those goals are:

  • Prevent opioid misuse, abuse and dependency by improving prescribing practices.
  • Treat opioid abuse and dependence through expanded access to treatment.
  • Prevent 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.
  • Use existing data and enhance data collection efforts to detect opioid and other illicit drug misuse/abuse and scientific evidence to inform the selection of strategies.
  • Identify and implement innovative strategies that reduce the risk of overdose to individuals and diverse communities that are disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic, and reduce stigma.
  • Reduce exposure and access to opioids among infants, children, youth and families.


“This crisis touches every single one of us,” said Schelli Slaughter, Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Director and Co-Chair of the Opioid Response Task Force. “I’m very grateful for all the members of our community that worked so tirelessly to develop this plan. Together, we can save lives and hopefully end this epidemic in Thurston County.” 


Jon Tunheim, Thurston County Prosecutor and Co-Chair of the Opioid Response Task Force added, “This plan offers an innovative and responsive way forward. Criminal justice, Public Health, Healthcare organizations, and social service providers must work together to find a solution by collaborating, sharing data, and keeping opioids out of our cupboard, off our streets, and out of the hands of our youth.” 


The full Opioid Response Plan is available on the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services web site at https://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/admin/boh/boardofhealth.html.

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