“We’re a society of addiction.”

Panel discusses opioid addiction in Kittitas County

UPDATED 3/22/19: The addicted are our neighbors, our friends, and our family members.

“Statistically, emergency room care is ten times as expensive as going to see your primary care physician and about 10% as effective overall in terms of outcomes. So you’re talking about the most expensive, least effective kind of healthcare when you access 911 and go to the emergency room [for addiction issues]…If we stop pretending like this is somebody else’s problem…[If we] recognize the true cost of opioid addiction, work backwards and apply what we’re already spending on [some] real solutions; we’re going to be a lot further ahead, both in terms of the outcomes and actual dollars spent.”

Rich Elliott, Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue

Opioid addiction usually doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and addicts often struggle with addictions to multiple other substances and mental health issues, panelists agreed at the March 20 forum on opioid addiction co-sponsored by the Kittitas Valley League of Women Voters and Ellensburg Public Library.

“We’re a society of addiction,” said Emily Nelson, clinical supervisor at Merit Resource Services. “We need to treat the entire individual, not just the addiction.”

Topics discussed at the forum included:

  • What is addiction?
  • What are opioids and how are they different from other addictive substances?
  • What treatment methods are out there, and do they work?
  • How has law enforcement approached drug-related crimes in the past, and how has that approach changed?
  • Lack of access to immediate treatment options and inpatient beds

Panelists:

  • Rich Elliott, Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue
  • Kim Hitchcock, Triumph Services
  • Emily Nelson, Merit Resource Services
  • Dr. John Asriel, Community Health Central Washington
  • Emily Brown, Merit Resource Services and drug court coordinator
  • Chief Ken Wade, Ellensburg Police Department
  • Undersheriff Clayton Myers, Kittitas County Sheriff’s Dept.

Attending and adding to the conversation was Liz Whitaker, community health supervisor at Kittitas County Public Health Department.

This forum was videotaped and will be available for viewing on Charter channel 191 and ECTV2.com.

Meanwhile, here are some links to information about addiction and resources for help:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publication, “Evidence-based Strategies for Preventing Opioid Overdose: What’s Working in the United States.

Kittitas County Public Health
Kittitas County Community Resources Guide
Community Resources web page

Treatment services

Merit Resource Services

Triumph Treatment Services (Yakima)

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