An updated dashboard on the Snohomish Overdose Prevention website combines medical examiner, department of health and emergency department information to illustrate the rising toll of opioid overdoses in the county.
The dashboard was produced and is maintained by the Snohomish Health District. It is part of ongoing efforts by the Snohomish County Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination Group, a county-wide effort to improve outcomes for those who use and abuse drugs.
“We are so glad to have published this new tool to communicate with the public and help answer the types of questions we are often asked about how many people are impacted and who is impacted,” said Sara Lidstrom, the epidemiologist who led the dashboard project. “With the increasing severity of the opioid crisis, it’s incredibly important to have this kind of data at our fingertips to help guide decision-making.”
The dashboard includes data from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Washington State Department of Health and emergency departments at the county’s two largest hospitals — Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and Swedish Edmonds.
The data show that opioid overdose deaths have increased drastically in the last five years. There were 198 reported deaths in 2021, up from 100 in 2017. Fentanyl is currently the most common substance involved in fatal overdoses.
“The opioid epidemic is a huge problem nationally, and Snohomish County is no exception. You can see on our new dashboard that this is a growing problem in our community,” said Dr. James Lewis, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “It is especially concerning now with the increased availability of fentanyl products, which are much more potent than the previously prevalent opioids such as prescription opioid pills and heroin. Because of this increased potency, it can be easier for people who use opioids to miscalculate the dose they are taking and lead to overdose.”
“Overdoses are killing far too many of our residents, and now that we have better access to data, we can design better policies and take action to save lives,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “The partnerships across the county reflected in this data dashboard will give us more opportunities to collaborate.”
In local emergency departments, nonfatal overdoses also are increasing. From 2020 to 2021, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett treated 844 opioid overdoses in its emergency department, up from 535 in 2017-18. The proportion of those overdoses involving either heroin or a prescription pain medication have been trending down while the proportion involving fentanyl trends upward. While most overdoses previously involved injecting opioids, people now are more likely to swallow or smoke them. For years private residences have been the most common location of opioid overdoses. Since 2017, the percentage of overdoses in private residences has increased from about 43% to 60%, based on the dashboard data.
The data also show that use of naloxone, often referred to by brand name Narcan, is increasing. This life-saving overdose reversal drug can be administered by anyone. So far in 2022, more than three-quarters of opioid overdose patients arriving at emergency departments had already been treated with naloxone. Most often, naloxone is administered by emergency medical services. However, at least 18% of the time, a community member such as a friend, family member or bystander administered naloxone.
Anyone can become trained in how to use naloxone, and online forms are available at www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com to request training.
Tips for using the new data dashboard
- Click the “full screen” button in the bottom right corner of the window for a larger, easy-to-navigate display
- Most data points on graphs and charts will allow you to hover and/or click to focus in on a specific piece of data and break out information by factors such as timeframe or demographic characteristics
- Watch for user tips throughout the dashboard to help you interact with and sort the data
- Read the “Data Notes” section to understand where the information comes from
Much of the information is preliminary and final reported numbers may change as data is reviewed and reconciled, the health district said. There may be minor differences in numbers reported on the dashboard and those reported in similar sources, such as the state Department of Health. This is generally due to slight differences in definitions or in how the data is processed. Small numbers have been presented as proportions or in combination with other small numbers to avoid potentially identifying individuals.
“Addiction is an insidious disease that can affect anyone at any time and we should work to reduce the stigma associated with it by providing information and education,” Lewis said. “Providing information and data, such as that available through our dashboard and our Snohomish Overdose Prevention website, will hopefully help community members better understand this serious health problem, combat stigma, and empower citizens to intervene if they know or see someone who is struggling with addiction.”
Additional resources and information about substance use disorder are available at www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com. The Washington Recovery Help Line also offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day at 1-866-789-1511.