Today is National Fentanyl Awareness Day

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Today marks the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day of action to raise public awareness about an urgent problem: people dying at alarming rates due to illegally made fentanyl.

But what is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid many are unaware has entered the market. Fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin.

There are two types of fentanyl: medical grade (prescribed by a doctor) and illegally made (illicit). Illegally made has been involved in the majority of U.S. drug deaths in recent years.

Fentanyl is very cheap and extremely addictive. There is an alarming nationwide trend of drug dealers mixing illegally made fentanyl with, and disguising it as, other common drugs like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax to increase profits. People may not be able to tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or the look of the drug. In Washington, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioid pills, as well as in powders and black tar heroin. According to the WA Department of Health, people should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

Most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and death have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. New data show that deaths from drug overdoses continue to increase for Washington residents and that fentanyl is a major driver. Preliminary data as of April 13 show drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in all of 2020 is nearly twice the number in 2019. In 2021, the number of overdose deaths were 72% higher than overdose deaths in 2020. Fentanyl overdose deaths have increased about 10-fold since 2016.

What can Skagitonians do to help?

Know the facts about fentanyl and share them with your friends.

  • Fentanyl is extremely potent. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount equal to a few grains of salt, can kill a person.
  • Do you know where your pill came from? Any pill you don’t directly get from a pharmacy may contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Real prescription drugs are not available on Instagram or Snapchat.

If you are a parent or educator, don’t avoid the topic.

  • Young people are dying from lack of information about this. 35% of youth ages 13-17 say they don’t know enough about fentanyl and its rate of danger, and 73% have never heard of fentanyl in counterfeit pills.
  • In our region, fentanyl is most commonly seen in blue, greenish, or pale colored counterfeit pills. There may be other colors. These pills may be marked as “M30” and sometimes as “K9,” “215,” and “v48.” Fentanyl may also be in white powders.

If you’re a person who uses drugs, or is considering using drugs, exercise caution.

What should you do if someone may be overdosing?

  • Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor first.
  • The Good Samaritan Overdose law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor people assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment. If you, or a loved one, want treatment or just want to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For information about what Skagit County is doing about the opioid and fentanyl crisis, for list of local treatment providers, or to learn how to use naloxone, go to www.skagitrising.org or call (360) 416-1500.


Teen Substance Use Prevention Starts with a Conversation

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Research suggests that one of the most important factors in healthy child development is a strong, open relationship with a parent or caregiver. Believe it or not, parents and caregivers are the most powerful influence in a child’s life and can make a huge impact when it comes to youth substance use prevention.

Parents and caregivers need to start talking to their children about alcohol and other drugs before they are exposed to them—typically in the early preteen years. But before you get talking, it is important to get prepared. Before beginning the conversation with your child, consider: What are your goals or what you like your child to walk away with?

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of talking to your child about alcohol or other drugs, start with a game plan. Keep reading for a list of 5 helpful goals for when you talk to your child.

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse.

Studies have shown that over 80 percent of young people ages 10–18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink. It is important to send a clear and strong message that you disapprove of underage drinking and misuse of other drugs.

It is recommended that parents begin talking to their children about alcohol at 9 years of age. Need some ideas for how to start this conversation with your child? Check out Start Talking Now for some conversation starters.

2. Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success.

Young people are more likely to listen and internalize your message when they know you’re on their side. Reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink or use other drugs—because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re open and you show concern.

Children are also less likely to drink or use marijuana or other drugs when their parents or caregivers are involved in their lives and when they feel a close connection. Some ways to increase or improve family bonding include:

  • Giving your kids at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time every day
  •  Doing fun things together
  •  Giving positive feedback about the healthy choices your child makes
  •  Eating as a family five times per week

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs.

You want your child to make informed decisions about alcohol and other drugs with reliable information about their dangers. So where are they getting their information?

You wouldn’t want your child to learn about alcohol and other drugs from potentially unreliable sources—from friends or social media. So, establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information!

After all, kids who learn a lot about the risks of alcohol and other drugs at home are less likely to use. In Washington, 85.3% of 10th graders who report having clear family rules about alcohol and drugs don’t drink (Healthy Youth Survey, 2018).

So, before you begin the conversation, make sure you have the facts! To get started, visit Start Talking Now.

4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll discourage risky behaviors.

Show that you’re aware of what your child is up to, as young people are more likely to drink or use other drugs if they think no one will notice or that there will be no repercussions. If possible, try to do this in a subtle way, without prying.

The best way to monitor your child’d behavior and stay engaged in their daily life is by having a conversation. Try asking some of these questions when they spend time with their friends:

  •  Where are you going?
  •  What will you be doing?
  •  Who will be with you?
  •  When will you be home?
  •  Will there be alcohol, marijuana or other drugs?

5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking and drug use.

Even if you don’t think your child wants to drink or try other drugs, peer pressure is a powerful thing. Having a plan to avoid alcohol and drug use can help children make better choices. Talk with your child about what they would do if faced with a decision about alcohol and drugs.

You can help your child practice how to say “no” by visiting Start Talking Now.

Making sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they need you is also critical. Plan ahead—talk to your child about what they should do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. Maybe it’s texting a code word for a no-questions-asked pick up.

Thankfully, you don’t need to accomplish all of the goals listed above in one conversation. It is important to chat about these topics frequently and beginning at a young age. In the end, the most important goal is to make sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they have questions or when they need help.


Want to get involved in teen substance use prevention initiatives in your community? Find out more about our local prevention coalitions:

Mount Vernon
MV HOPEhttps://mvhope.com/
Coalition Coordinator – Bethany Sparkle (b.sparkle@skagitymca.org)

Burlington
Burlington Healthy Community Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/Burlington-Healthy-Community-Coalition-105142296193 
Coalition Coordinator – Liz Wilhelm (liz.wilhelm@unitedgeneral.com)

Sedro-Woolley
Sedro-Woolley RISE – https://www.facebook.com/SedroWoolleyRISE
Coalition Coordinator – Samantha Stormont (sstormont@swsd101.org)

Concrete
Concrete Resource Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/concreteresourcecoalition
Coalition Coordinator – Marlena White (marlena.white@unitedgeneral.org


The Flu Vaccine: It’s not too late to get yours!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Flu activity was kept low last season because of vaccination, social distancing, masking, school closures and limited travel. Now that many pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the flu has a much higher chance of spreading.

The timing of flu is difficult to predict and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. So, while we haven’t seen much flu activity yet, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare. Experts have warned that reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020 could result in an early, and possibly severe flu season. 

Thankfully, there is something that we can all do to prevent illness and hospitalizations caused by flu. We can get vaccinated!

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and seasonal flu (most often just called “flu”) is caused by infection with one of many influenza viruses that spread annually among people.

In general, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. Compared with people who have flu infections, people who have COVID-19 can take longer to show symptoms and be contagious for longer. This FAQ page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

So, do I need to get the flu vaccine this year?

Yes! Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting yours, and your family’s health every year. Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older. It is also important to note that certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Young kids (especially kids under five years).
  • People 65 years and older.
  • People of any age with certain health conditions like asthma and lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions, kidney or liver disorders, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Pregnant women.
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of kids, especially those in contact with babies under six months of age who are too young to get seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people in any of the above groups.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Flu vaccines are not designed to protect against COVID-19. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death in addition to other important benefits.

Likewise, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19, but those vaccines are not designed to protect against flu. Visit the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page for information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time!

Even though both vaccines can be given at the same visit, people should follow the recommended schedule for either vaccine: If you haven’t gotten your currently recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can, and ideally, get a flu vaccine by the end of October. To find a COVID-19 vaccine provider, go here.

While limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, including flu vaccines, experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines. If you have concerns about getting both vaccines at the same time, you should speak with a health care provider.

If I get sick with the flu, am I at greater risk of contracting COVID-19?

Because COVID-19 is still a relatively new illness, there is little information about how flu illness might affect a person’s risk of getting COVID-19. We do know that people can be infected with flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time.

Getting a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its potentially serious complications, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19.

When is the best time to get your influenza vaccine?

September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October.

Adults, especially those older than 65, should not get vaccinated early (in July or August) because protection in this group may decrease over time. Children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available—even if this is in July or August. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about the flu shot.

While flu activity may be low right now, it could begin increasing at any time. Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against the flu.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

If you don’t have a health care professional you regularly see, you can find flu vaccines at many places, including your local pharmacy!

Looking for a vaccine for your child? Talk to their pediatrician or call the Help Me Grow Washington Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

How much does a flu shot cost?

In Washington, all children under age 19 get flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines at no cost. That said, a provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

Uninsured and over 18 years old? The WA Department of Health is collaborating with Safeway Inc. and Albertsons Companies LLC to offer free flu vaccines across the state. Check here for a list of participating locations.  

Note: Most insurance plans, including Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults.

I got the flu shot. What else can I do to prevent getting sick?

The flu vaccine keeps many people from getting the flu, however some people who get the flu vaccine may still get sick. If you do get the flu, the vaccine will help reduce the severity of your illness. It will also lower your chance of needing to go to the hospital.

Increase your protection by covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and staying home when you’re sick. Cloth face coverings or masks can also help prevent the spread of the flu—just like with COVID-19!

If you do feel sick with flu, it’s important to know when to stay home and when to get emergency medical care. When in doubt, check with your doctor.


Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2021-2022.htm#what-virus  
https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu


Saturday, October 23 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is taking place on Saturday, October 23rd from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations across Skagit County. This is a national event, organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in collaboration with community law enforcement and prevention partners.

Since 2010, Take Back Day events have provided easy, anonymous opportunities to remove medicines in the home that are highly susceptible to misuse, abuse, and theft. Through the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative, a grand total of 985,392 pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications were collected during last year’s October event. In Skagit County alone, 289 community members participated in a Take Back Day event, disposing a total of 512.4 pounds of unwanted medication.

Events will be taking place on Saturday, October 23rd from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Burlington: Public Safety Building, 311 Cedar St.
  • La Conner: Swinomish Police Dept., 17353 Reservation Rd.
  • Mount Vernon: Skagit Valley Family YMCA, 1901 Hoag Rd.
  • Sedro-Woolley: Sedro-Woolley City Hall, 325 Metcalf St.

Due to COVID-19, all locations will be operating a drive-through system for medication drop-off. Event coordinators ask that the public please wear their mask and practice physical distancing.

If you cannot attend a Take Back Day event this Saturday, please know that Skagit County operates a year-round Secure Medicine Return Program. Prescription medicines, legally prescribed controlled substances (e.g., narcotics and stimulants), over-the-counter medicines, and pet medications can all be disposed using a Secure Medicine Return drop box. Current Drop Box locations are listed at: https://med-project.org/.

For those with mobility concerns, pre-paid no-cost medicine return mailers are available, to be sent directly to your home. Please go to https://med-project.org/  or call 1-844-633-7765 to order mailers. You can get standard mailers or special mailers for inhalers and prefilled auto-injectors.

For updates and additional information on DEA’s Take Back events, please visit www.DEATakeBack.com or visit United General District 304’s webpage for more information.  

Want to know more about Skagit County’s Secure Medicine Return program, substance use prevention, treatment, or local recovery options? Visit www.skagitrising.org or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Knock Out Flu: Think of It as Your Best Defense

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From the WA Department of Health

Think of It as Your Best Defense

This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic and help keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Why is it so important to get the flu vaccine this year?

Flu activity was unusually low last year. People in Washington did a great job getting their flu vaccine, and the COVID-19 safety measures like masking, staying home, and limiting gatherings also helped limit the spread of the flu. But this year, many of these safety measures are lifted.

Some people are returning to work in-person, and most children are going back to in-person school. That means we have a much higher risk of exposure to the flu virus. And with last year’s low activity, most people weren’t as exposed to flu viruses, so they don’t have much natural immunity to the flu anymore. Getting the flu vaccine is your best defense.

Should I still get the flu vaccine if I’m usually healthy?

Yes, we recommend the flu vaccine for everyone six months and older. The flu vaccine protects not only you, but also the people you’re around. Flu can be serious even in healthy people, but some people are at higher risk including:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Young children, especially those under 5 years of age
  • Pregnant people
  • People with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or neurologic conditions

While flu illness can be mild in most people, it’s important to remember how serious flu really is. Sadly, over 900 people in Washington died from flu-related illness in the last five years, including many children. The flu vaccine saves lives.

When should I get the flu vaccine?

You should get your flu vaccine before the end of October for the best protection through the fall and winter months when flu is most likely to spread. You can even get your COVID19 and flu vaccines at the same time. You can still get a flu vaccine for several months after October and get protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

You can visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic event in your area. Visit www.vaccinefinder.org or call the Help Me Grow Washington hotline at 1-800-322-2588 (language assistance available) to find a flu vaccine location near you. If you’re working,
you can also check with your employer to see if they are hosting an on-site clinic for their staff.

Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?

Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults. If you do not have insurance, you may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost.

Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.

For more information, visit www.KnockOutFlu.org.


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

UPDATE: As of September 21, 2021, local supply of Monoclonal antibodies is extremely low, and is expected to remain so for two or more weeks. If you are seeking treatment, you will need to go through your health care provider for a referral. Please do not call local treatment providers or go to the emergency department for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19. We know that people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to get COVID-19, and that the vaccines continue to prove effective in keeping people from getting seriously sick or dying if they catch the virus.

We also know that COVID-19—and especially the delta variant—are still circulating widely in our community. Local case and hospitalization rates are at the highest that they’ve ever been, with unvaccinated people representing the vast majority of these cases. Breakthrough cases (when someone who is fully vaccinated and contracts COVID-19) are also a reality, and in rare circumstances, fully vaccinated folks are still becoming critically ill with the virus.

Thankfully, for certain high risk individuals who do get COVID-19—regardless of vaccination status—there is some good news available.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that help jumpstart your immune system so you can fight off a COVID-19 infection. They can be given by a shot or an IV infusion. Studies show that the treatments successfully fight the virus and prevent serious illness.

Is Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment safe?

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization for several monoclonal antibody treatments. The FDA currently recommends the REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

Just like with any medication, the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.

Potential side effects of REGEN-COV™ and Sotrovimab include allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, as well as infusion-related reactions, including pain, bruising of the skin, soreness, swelling, and possible infection at the injection site.

Who should get this treatment and when?

Monoclonal antibody therapies can treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 and older (must weigh at least 88 lbs.), who are at high risk for developing severe illness. Some fully vaccinated people may even qualify for antibody treatment if they are in a high-risk category.

Regardless of vaccination status, timing is important. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 10 days of getting symptoms to work best. Once someone is hospitalized or needs oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, they are no longer eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments. Check with your doctor right away to decide if this treatment is right for you.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if this treatment is available?

Monoclonal antibody therapies are not authorized for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19. These therapies do not replace vaccination against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent against contracting COVID-19 and is recommended by the CDC for everyone 12 years and older.   

How are vaccines and monoclonal therapies different?

A vaccine helps stimulate and prepare your immune system to respond if or when you are exposed to COVID-19. Two weeks following your final dose, your immune system is prepped and ready to create antibodies, even before they are needed.

Monoclonal antibodies boost the immune system after you are already sick with COVID-19. The treatment speeds up your immune response to prevent a person’s symptoms from getting worse. Monoclonal antibodies act as guided missiles that target the virus, but protection doesn’t stick around. While monoclonal antibodies are effective for a short period, COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to still offer significant protection months down the road.

While Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment is a great option for people who are already sick with the virus and at an increased risk for complications, vaccination is the easiest and most effective option for keeping people safe.

Is this treatment free?

The federal government provides some monoclonal antibody treatments for free. Depending on insurance coverage, some may need to pay an administration fee. This is to cover the costs of giving the treatment, not for the antibodies. As always, check with your insurance provider to learn more about treatment costs for your specific plan, first. For people with Medicare and Medicaid, the cost of administering the treatment should be covered.

Where can I get Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment?

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy is available in Washington state with a provider’s recommendation for certain high risk individuals. People can be at high risk because of many reasons including their age, having an underlying medical condition, and other things. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Age ≥ 65 years
  • Obesity or being overweight based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical growth charts
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Heart or circulatory conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Having a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation [not related to COVID-19])

If you think you might qualify for this treatment, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral before contacting these sites to arrange an appointment. There is limited capacity at certain sites, and it is preferred that individuals contact these facilities over the phone to arrange an appointment time, in order to limit exposure for staff and other patients.

To find a Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment location near you, go to: https://bit.ly/3hVhagX.


Suicide Prevention: A Critical Conversation, This Year and Every Year

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This month during National Suicide Prevention Month, we are taking extra time to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and seeking help if and when needed. This year, as we see COVID-19 cases spiking and as many are feeling the affects of months of chronic stress, it is critical that we revisit some important mental health talking points.

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Below are some tips to consider from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when talking with friends and family about mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Do They Need Your Help?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

How Can You Help Them?

Note: It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, and it can be difficult to know how a suicidal crisis feels and how to act. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time for help if someone in your life is struggling.

Contact a Lifeline Center

Never keep it a secret if a friend or family member tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available to you or encourage your loved one to call.

A few other resources include:

  • Crisis line 24-hour hotline: 800-584-3578 (for Island, Skagit, Snohomish & Whatcom Counties)
  • Veteran Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255 press 1, text 838255, or chat online
  • LGBTQ+ Suicide Hotline (Trevor Project): 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678-678  
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Use The Do’s and Don’ts

Talking with and finding help for someone that may be suicidal can be difficult. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, like weapons or pills. Do never put yourself at risk or in harms way. If the situation is unsafe or you feel threatened, call 911.
  • Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Go to https://namiskagit.org/ for local resources.

Use the 5 Action Steps

These evidence-based action steps from bethe1to.com provide a blueprint for reaching and helping someone in crisis.

  1. ASK – Yes, you can ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide?” By asking it directly, you are communicating that you are open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for healthier, more effective dialogue about their emotional state and can allow everyone to see what next steps need to be taken.
  2. BE THERE – It may seem that “being there” for people is harder recently. But you can be present in different ways. If you can’t physically be with someone, speak with them on the phone when you can or try sending supportive text messages; whatever you can do to show support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person; do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
  3. KEEP THEM SAFE – First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT – Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
  5. FOLLOW UP – After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.

Practice Active Listening

Hearing someone talk is different than actively listening to what that person is saying. Active listening requires concentration and understanding. Improving your listening skills is easy to do with practice and these helpful tips below:

Acknowledge the Speaker

This can be as simple as a head nod or an “Uh huh.” By acknowledging the speaker, you are letting them know that you are listening to what they have to say and reminding yourself to pay attention to what is being said to you.

Respond Verbally

Asking questions or making statements may help clarify what the speaker is saying. It reminds the speaker that you are listening attentively and that you are here to help them and are truly concerned. Be sure to let the speaker finish talking before asking any questions.

Summarize What You Hear

Reflecting on what the listener is saying is also a positive verbal active listening technique. By repeating, paraphrasing, or even summarizing what the speaker has said shows that you are putting in effort to better understand them. Use phrases like; “what I’m hearing is…”or, “sounds like you’re saying….” These tactics can also allow the speaker to hear what they are saying, which may help them find positive reinforcement.

Be Mindful of Body Language

Keeping eye contact, maintaining good posture, and staying focused are key components of active listening and interpersonal communication. Being distracted and unfocused gives the speaker the impression that you aren’t paying attention. When you actively listen to someone, you are letting them know that you care about what they are saying and can indicate that you are concerned for their health and safety.

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It is important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself. Know that anyone is encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained professional. They’re here for you.

This September let’s actively try to reach out to those in our lives. And if you are struggling yourself, consider reaching out for help. There is absolutely no shame in needing help, and you deserve to feel better.


Overdose Prevention: Preparedness Saves Lives

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Overdose deaths accelerated in Washington State in 2020, increasing by 38% in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019. Preliminary data show 835 overdose deaths in Washington State in the first six months of 2020 compared to 607 deaths in the first half of 2019. Fentanyl-involved deaths more than doubled from 137 to 309 during that time. Most deaths involved multiple substances and many involved fentanyl. In Skagit County, a total of 143 nonfatal and 28 fatal overdoses were reported in 2020. Of those, 18 nonfatal and 10 fatal were related to fentanyl.

Substance use disorder is a disease that impacts many in our community. Overdose deaths are preventable with preparedness, education, and community care.

Illicit fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin. In Washington state, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioid pills, as well as in powders and black tar heroin. People may not be able to tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or the look of the drug. According to the WA Department of Health, people should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

Everyone can play a role in saving lives in our community. If someone in your life is struggling with substance use disorder, learn the the signs of opioid overdose including; the inability to wake up; slow or no breathing; and blue, gray or ashy skin, lips or fingernails.

If you are struggling with substance use, do your best not to use alone and start slow using a tester amount to determine strength. If you must use alone, call 800-484-3731 (Never Use Alone) to ensure someone can help in the event of an overdose.

Skagit County also encourages those dealing with substance use disorders to carry at least two doses of Naloxone. Naloxone (also called Narcan®) is a safe and simple medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. If someone may be overdosing, call 9-1-1, give naloxone, and perform rescue breathing.

Naloxone can be administered nasally or intramuscularly. There are currently four types of naloxone available. For more information, visit SkagitRising.

Naloxone is easy to access in Washington State:

Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor first.

Remember, the Good Samaritan Overdose law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor people assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment. If you or a loved one want treatment or just want to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For information about what Skagit County is doing about the opioid and fentanyl crisis, for list of local treatment providers, or to learn how to use naloxone, go to www.skagitrising.org or call (360) 416-1500.


Firework Safety this Fourth of July

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Fire Officials Urge Extreme Caution on Firework Use

Recent extreme temperatures and dry weather has caused our state to be more vulnerable to wildfires in advance of this Fourth of July weekend. Following days of record-breaking heat across Washington, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has asked Washingtonians to do whatever they can to help prevent wildfires.

“Due to our current temperatures and extreme dry conditions, the county is experiencing unprecedented high fire risk at this time. We are encouraging everyone to refrain from discharging consumer grade fireworks this season and attend commercial public displays instead. As a reminder, while it may be legal to discharge certain fireworks, you may still be liable for damage caused as a result. We need to have everyone do their part to avoid potential loss of life or risk property damage.”

Bonnie LaCount, Skagit County Deputy Fire Marshall

In Skagit County, a burn ban is currently in effect due to the recent extreme temperatures and dry weather conditions; however, there are no fireworks restrictions in unincorporated Skagit County between June 28 and July 5th. Even still, and though temperatures have cooled, our grasses, brush, and shrubs continue to have very low moisture content. Such dry conditions pose a serious wildfire risk for Skagit County and the surrounding region.

Fireworks are a common cause of large-scale fires, including the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon. The fire was started by a teen igniting a firework and ultimately burned 50,000 acres. The teen was ultimately criminally sentenced and order to pay millions of dollars in restitution.

If residents do choose to use backyard fireworks, please keep wildfire safety and prevention at the forefront.

Below are some tips for using fireworks safely in dry weather:

  • Do not use fireworks on or near dry vegetation or combustible materials.
  • Be cautious when lighting fireworks when conditions are windy. The wind could blow a burning spark and set a nearby area on fire.
  • When using fireworks, always have a fire extinguisher, water supply, hose, or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire. Before discarding devices, be sure to douse them thoroughly with water.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry area to prevent an accidental ignition.
  • Supervise children closely when using fireworks. Sparklers are a popular firework given to children, and they burn at an extremely high temperature and can cause major injuries. For more tips on fireworks safety and children, visit: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html
  • Never light more than one firework at a time, and never attempt to re-light one that did not ignite completely.
  • If a firework device ignites a fire, contact the local fire department or 911 immediately. Do not attempt to extinguish a large fire.

Fireworks are not the only concern this weekend for local and state fire officials. Under dry conditions, summer activities such as grilling also have the potential to cause large fires. Under Skagit’s current burn ban, it is asked that residents refrain from setting outdoor fires until further notice. Recreational and cooking fires—limited to 3 feet in diameter and two feet high—remain allowed within enclosures and when safety precautions are followed. Officials ask that residents douse recreational fires with water, stir it, and douse the fire again until it’s cool to the touch before leaving.

Please note: Skagit County regulates fireworks within the unincorporated portions of the county, i.e., outside the boundaries of the cities and towns. In unincorporated Skagit County, only fireworks allowed by state law are allowed. Fireworks are illegal on state forestlands and in most parks.

In unincorporated Skagit County, it is illegal to discharge fireworks except during the following dates and times:

HolidayDateSales Legal BetweenDischarge Legal Between
Fourth of JulyJune 2812 p.m. –11 p.m.12 p.m. –11 p.m.
 June 29 – July 39 a.m.–11 p.m.9 a.m.–11 p.m.
 July 49 a.m.– 11 p.m.9 a.m.–Midnight
 July 59 a.m.–9 p.m.9 a.m.–11 p.m.

For a list of public fireworks displays here in Skagit County, go to the County Fire Marshall webpage.

For questions about fireworks and/or open burning in Skagit County, please contact the Skagit County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-416-1840, or go to the website at www.skagitcounty.net/firemarshal.  


Let’s Be “Water Safe” This Summer!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s hot this week. Like, hot-hot. And this weekend looks like its going to be a scorcher. With seriously warm weather coming, you and your family might be planning to spend some time in, or near, water this weekend. Whether you’re planning a trip to the beach, to the lake, or just a casual Saturday around the kiddie pool, it is critical to be thinking about water safety at all times.

Why is water safety important?

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools and hot tubs, at the beach or in oceanslakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets. 

How do you ensure water safety?

Being “water safe” means that you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones while enjoying time in, and around, the water. These steps include:

  1. Buddying Up: Always swim with other people. Designate a buddy from your household to swim with before you enter the water.
  2. Suiting Up: Always wear life jackets on boats. Make sure everyone has U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets at all times.
  3. Knowing Your Limits: Only swim as far as you can safely get back. Don’t hold your breath for longer than you can. Stay close to shore and rest if you are cold or tired.
  4. Knowing the Water: Don’t enter cold water or very fast-moving water. Always jump feet first into unknown water.
  5. Keeping an Eye Out: Actively supervise young children and inexperienced swimmers. Stay within arm’s reach and avoid distractions.

How do you make water safety a priority, in every location and situation?

Use “Layers of Protection” In & Around Water

There are things that you can actively do to ensure water safety and prevent drowning. Here are just a few:

  • Even if lifeguards are present, you (or another responsible adult) should stay with your children.
  • Be a “water watcher” – provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising; avoid distractions, including cell phones.
  • Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Children, inexperienced swimmers, and all boaters should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Take specific precautions for the water environment you are in, such as:
    • Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers, including four-sided fencing that separates the water from the house.
    • At the beach, always swim in a lifeguarded area.

Know the Risks & Take Sensible Precautions – Even If You’re a Strong Swimmer

  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs (including certain prescription medications) before or while swimming, diving or supervising swimmers.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or fishing, even if you don’t intend to enter the water.

Ensure That the Entire Family Learns How to Swim

Now is a great time to look into swim lessons for everyone in your family! Most fitness centers with a pool offer swim lessons for kiddos 6 months and older. For a list of swimming lessons being offered in Skagit County, go to: https://skagit.kidinsider.com/pools. Note: Some information may have changed due to COVID.

Know how to respond in case of emergency

One of the best, and proactive things that you can do to ensure water safety is to learn how to respond during an emergency. Want to become CPR certified? Find a course nearby!

Some helpful links:

The American Red Cross has fantastic resources available that cover every water safety topic. For more information, visit: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html.

Links to specific topics:

  1. Drowning Prevention Facts
  2. Home pool & hot tub safety
  3. Swimming Safely at the Beach