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Help end the opioid crisis in Pierce County

Substance misuse, overdoses and drug-related deaths continue to rise in Pierce County and around the state. The Tacoma-Pierce County Opioid Task Force remains committed to ending this crisis.

More than 100 people gathered last week, to partner and strategize to meet this goal. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Pierce County, City of Tacoma, and Elevate Health comprise the Opioid Task Force with the support of many community partners. 

This year’s Opioid Summit focused on creating a system of culture and care in our community.

It’s an important conversation. Your demographics, experiences, and cultural environment all affect your mental health and wellbeing. Poor mental health can lead to substance use disorder and other problems

We’ve been at this work for 5 years.

In 2018, community members, invested stakeholders, educators, faith leaders, law enforcement and politicians came together to talk about the opioid crisis. Everyone agreed, it will take all of us to affect change.  

That brought leaders like our Director of Health, Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, former Pierce County Councilmember and Board of Health Chair Derek Young, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and former Tacoma City Councilmember Connor McCarthy to create the Opioid Task Force.

Together, we quickly adopted a holistic approach. We know substance misuse affects families, loved ones and those who need direct services. 

Now, we lead community events, work monthly to deliver subcommittee initiatives, and provide funding for projects like naloxone distribution and fentanyl awareness.

At this year’s summit we continued the conversation on subcommittee projects and other efforts. Pierce County Councilmember and Board of Health Vice Chair Jani Hitchen kicked off a conversation about how best to spend opioid settlement funds. 

We honored Dr. Chen and former councilmember Young for their task force work over the past 5 years.

Director of Health Dr. Anthony L-T Chen shows off an award given to him March 23, 2023, at the Tacoma Pierce County Opioid Summit.

Deadly trend continues.

We updated our overdose dashboard last week ahead of the Summit. It shows the stark reality that deaths from drug overdoses now outnumber deaths from motor-vehicle collisions and firearm-related deaths in Pierce County. 

What’s more, deaths from all drugs in Pierce County jumped significantly from pre-pandemic levels. Deaths from opioids spiked the most. Fentanyl-related deaths are growing most quickly among people ages 18-24 across Washington. 

We need a path forward. That means a comprehensive and coordinated system, with everyone working together.
The Opioid Task Force works year-round to raise awareness, reduce stigma, improve health, and address many of the barriers for people with substance use disorder.

We focus on:

  • Prevention.
  • Education.
  • Access to treatment.
  • Offering the right services at the right time.

We need everyone’s help.

You can help! If you’d like to learn more or offer your support, email me at eallen@tpchd.org

Mental Health First Aid can also teach you to see, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. You can help your organization learn to focus on trauma informed care.

And if someone you know is struggling with opioid dependency, you can tell them about our treatment services.

You can also sign up for blog updates and other notifications and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to get our latest reliable information.

Two people talk at the 2023 Opioid Summit.