Local law enforcement seeing rise in overdoses

A culmination of several factors, many of them related to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, are suspected driving forces behind a boom in heroin overdoses in recent weeks, local law enforcement and health officials said last week.

Clallam County law enforcement and fire personnel responded to eight known heroin overdoses in January through March of this year, but in the month of April alone, that number spiked to 19, according to the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET).

According to the Clallam County Health Department, the number of reported overdoses to the health department in January through April of 2019 was 25. During the same period in 2020 the number of overdoses increased to 68, which is an increase of 172 percent.

(In 2015, the Clallam County Board of Health passed a resolution making fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose a reportable condition in Clallam County.)

OPNET officials say Clallam health officials suspect several factors are leading to the increase, including:

• stress, job losses and social isolation leading to worsening of underlying behavioral health disorders, relapse and increased use;

• social isolation leading to increased use alone

• decreased access to in person behavioral health treatment and medication-assisted treatment (MAT); and,

• an increasing prevalence of fentanyl in the local drug supply.

A combination of increase in demand and a supply shortage in the methamphetamine and heroin “appears to be leading drug dealers to mix fentanyl into their product to ensure a more powerful effect,” OPNET officials said.

“Unfortunately this mixing process is not scientific and the results can be lethal.”

Local resources available to assist those in need of treatment include:

• BAART (medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder with other services such as counseling, case management, and referrals to community resource): baartprograms.com/baart-programs-port-angeles

• North Olympic Healthcare Network (NOHN) medication-assisted treatment: www.nohn-pa.org/mat_medication_assisted_treatment_for_opioid_addiction.php.