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.


COVID-19 Treatment Options

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COVID-19 medications are now available through your doctor, local pharmacies, and health clinics. If you have COVID-19 symptoms and test positive, do not wait to get treated. Early intervention with COVID-19 therapeutics can reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization for people with COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing more serious illness.

If you think you might qualify, please speak to your healthcare provider first and get a referral and/or prescription for treatment. Please note that any healthcare provider can evaluate and prescribe you COVID-19 medication just as they normally would.

For assistance:

What is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)?

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is medication designed to block a virus from attachment and entering human cells. People 12 years and older may qualify for pre-exposure prophylaxis if persons are:

  • Not currently infected with COVID-19.
  • At least 88 pounds (40 kg) in weight.
  • Moderate to severely immune compromised.
  • Not recommended by their health care provider to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Please note: Pre-exposure prevention with Evusheld is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended. 

What are Oral Antivirals?

Two treatments are available: Paxlovid™ (Pfizer) and molnupiravir (Merck). Oral antiviral treatment may help your body fight COVID-19 by stopping the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) from multiplying in your body, lowering the amount of the virus within your body, or helping your immune system. By getting treatment, you could have less serious symptoms and may lower the chances of your illness getting worse and needing care in the hospital. You must take oral COVID-19 medication within 5 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms.

What are Monoclonal Antibody Treatments?

If you are at risk for severe COVID-19 illness and you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you may want to consider a monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment. You may qualify for a mAb treatment (bebtelovimab) to treat COVID-19 depending on your age, health history, and how long you have had symptoms. A mAb treatment may help people who:

  • Are at high risk of getting more serious symptoms; and
  • Have a positive COVID-19 test with symptoms for 7 days or less; OR
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has recently tested positive.

How much does treatment cost?

Treatment is provided free of charge by the Federal Government, although each provider may charge an administration fee that will be billed to your insurance provider with a possible copay for the patient. If uninsured, call the State COVID-19 Information Hotline for assistance: 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

For more information:


Aquí para ayudarlo a encontrar los servicios y tratamientos que usted o su familia están buscando.

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¡Hola, mi nombre es Aracely!

Comprender el sistema de atención médica puede ser difícil para la mayoría de nosotros. El sistema de atención de la salud conductual es aún más complicado. Soy una trabajadora de salud comunitaria / promotora que está aquí para ayudarlo a navegar por el sistema de atención de salud conductual para que usted y sus seres queridos puedan obtener la atención que necesita.

Primero, ¿qué es la salud conductual? La salud conductual abarca tanto los trastornos de salud mental como los trastornos por uso de sustancias (también llamados adicción). El tratamiento está disponible, pero encontrarlo y comprender los beneficios del seguro puede ser difícil.

Mi trabajo es trabajar con personas para ayudarlas a encontrar el tratamiento que necesitan. Además, estoy trabajando para crear conciencia y apoyo a la comunidad hispana / latina. Personalmente conozco las luchas y barreras que las personas de habla hispana pueden enfrentar cuando buscan atención, y quiero ayudar a romper esas barreras.

Esto es lo que puedo hacer para ayudarte:

  • Asistirte en inglés y español.
  • Conectarlo con proveedores de servicios.
  • Ayudarle a encontrar necesidades básicas como alimentos y ropa.
  • Ayudarle a aprender acerca de las opciones de tratamiento.
  • Ayudarle a encontrar un proveedor de atención de salud conductual.
  • Ayudarle a encontrar ayuda para inscribirse en el seguro o Medicaid.
  • Ayudarle a entender los beneficios de su seguro.
  • Ayudarle a obtener naloxona, el medicamento para revertir la sobredosis de opioides, y mostrarle cómo usarlo.

Estoy disponible de lunes a viernes, de 8 a.m. a 4:30 p.m. Me pueden contactar en:

  • Correo electrónico: aracelyp@co.skagit.wa.us
  • Teléfono de la oficina: 360-416-1544
  • Teléfono celular: 360-391-7201 (acepta texto)

Here to help you find the services and treatments you or your family are looking for.

Hi, my name is Aracely!

Understanding the healthcare system can be tough for most of us. And unfortunately, the behavioral healthcare system can sometime be even more complicated. I’m a Community Health Worker/Promotora who is here to assist you in navigating the behavioral healthcare system so you and your loved ones can get the care you need.

First, what is behavioral health? Behavioral health encompasses both mental health disorders and substance use disorders (also called addiction). Treatment is available but finding it and understanding insurance benefits can be difficult.

My job is to work with individuals to help them find the treatment they need. Additionally, I am working to bring awareness and support to the Hispanic/Latino community. I personally know the struggles and barriers that Spanish-speaking individuals can face when seeking care, and I want to help break down those barriers.

Here is what I can do to help you:

  • Assist you in English and Spanish.
  • Connect you with service providers.
  • Help you find basic needs like food and clothing.
  • Help you learn about treatment options.
  • Help you find a behavioral health care provider.
  • Help you find assistance signing up for insurance or Medicaid.
  • Help you understand your insurance benefits.
  • Help you get naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, and show you how to use it.

I am available Monday-Friday, 8 am-4:30 pm. I can be reached at:


What You Need to Know About Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutic Treatment

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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.


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.


Overdose Prevention & You

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Bob Lutz, Washington State medical advisor for COVID-19 response, states that “Washingtonians with substance use disorders may have found themselves using more frequently [during the COVID-19 pandemic], and unfortunately, the data suggests they are also overdosing more often.Alarmingly, Skagit County has also observed an increase in opioid-related overdoses. Keep reading for preliminary, 2020 State- and County-level overdose data.

But first, a quick terminology refresher!

Overdose happens when a toxic amount of a drug, or combination of drugs, overwhelms the body. People can overdose on lots of things including alcohol, Tylenol, opioids or a mixture of drugs. When an opioid overdose occurs, the overdosing individual may experience slow or no breath, choking or snore-like sounds, pinpoint pupils, blue/ashy skin, nails and lips, unconsciousness and/or death. Fortunately, there are harm reduction practices and prevention interventions that can significantly reduce one’s chances of overdose and death. Visit SkagitRising to learn more.

Fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin. There are pharmaceutical forms of fentanyl that are used for anesthesia and pain. However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and death have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. Any illicit drug in any form – powder, pill, etc. – could have fentanyl in it. You can’t necessarily tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or look of the drug. According to the DOH, we should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING:

In Washington, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioids (often with an imprint of “M30” or “A215”), as well as in powders and black tar heroin.

Opioid Overdose Data

Last month, the Washington State Department of Health published a News Release, which includes preliminary overdose data for the first six months of 2020.

Here is a Brief Snapshot:

  • Overdose deaths in Washington State increased by 38% in the first half of 2020, compared to the first half of 2019. Most of this increase came from deaths involving fentanyl.
  • Fentanyl-involved deaths more than doubled from 137 to 309.
  • Most deaths involved multiple substances, sometimes called polysubstance use.

Skagit County also observed an increase in opioid-related deaths when compared to 2019. While Public Health and many other community partners have been working diligently to reduce the impacts of opioid misuse and overdose in our communities (see list of collaborative efforts here: https://skagitrising.org/what-is-being-done/), we need your help!

How YOU Can Help

We all play an important role in reducing opioid overdoses and saving lives in our communities.

  • The COVID19 pandemic has affected us all. Stress and social isolation may increase risk of substance misuse and overdose. Offer support to friends and family – send a text, call, video chat, get together in one-on-one or in a small group outside.
  • Know the signs of an opioid overdose and how to help.
  • Naloxone (also called Narcan®) is a safe medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. If you use opioids or know someone who does, make sure to carry naloxone. You could save a life! Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • If you think someone is overdosing don’t hesitate to call 911. The Good Samaritan Law (RCW 69.50.315) protects you and the person overdosing from prosecution of drug consumption and drug possession.
  • Help those struggling with opioid use disorder find the right care and treatment. Buprenorphine and methadone, two medications used to treat opioid use disorder (MOUD), can cut the risk of a fatal opioid overdose in half, and support long-term recovery. Find local MOUD treatment programs by visiting https://skagitrising.org/  
  • If you use drugs, please practice harm reduction techniques. If you must use alone, call 800-484-3731 (Never Use Alone Hotline).

Additional Info

Feeling overwhelmed and/or don’t know where to start? You are not alone. Visit the WA Recovery Helpline (or call 1-866-789-1511) where they provide emotional support and connect callers with local treatment resources and community services. You can also learn about local resources by visiting https://skagitrising.org/resources/

If you have questions, want to learn more about behavioral health services in Skagit County, or would like to pick-up free naloxone or fentanyl test strips, contact McKinzie Gales, Community Health Education Specialist at mgales@co.skagit.wa.us or (360)416-1528.


SkagitRising: A New Opioid & Substance Use Resource

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Watch out, there is a new resource website in town!

Last week, Skagit County officially announced the launching of a new website pertaining to local opioid and substance use resources. This website is called SkagitRising and was created in partnership between Skagit County Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team, to connect community members to pertinent behavioral health information and services. SkagitRising aims to provide community members—a.k.a you and me—with educational information, harm reduction/prevention techniques, local resources, tips for supporting others, and more.

Don’t know if SkagitRising houses the information you are looking for? Keep reading!

The Motivation Behind SkagitRising

In 2015, Public Health conducted a Community Health Assessment, and the community clearly identified the opioid crisis as a main public health concern. Over the last five years, Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team have advocated for and acted on a variety of programs, services and policies to improve the lives of individuals impacted by substance use. One of the goals that these groups advocated for was the creation of an interactive, virtual “hub” that would make it easier to gain information and access to support services. SkagitRising is the result of this goal.

Navigating the behavioral health* system can be challenging. If you’ve done it, or know someone who has, then you know what I mean. SkagitRising breaks down barriers to accessing information and presents local resources and support services in an attempt to reduce stigma and the impact of substance use in our community.

*Behavioral health is a common Public Health term that encompasses both mental health and substance use disorders.

How to Access SkagitRising

To access SkagitRising, either type or copy and paste www.skagitrising.org into your browser’s address bar (also known as the URL bar). You can also search “skagitrising.org” or “skagitrising” using Google or a similar platform, and the website should auto populate as one of the first search results. SkagitRising is both browser and mobile friendly. If you have an internet connection, you should be able to access the website without any problem.

How to Know if SkagitRising Has Information for You

Are you interested in learning more about opioids, opioid use disorder or substance use disorders? Do you currently use either prescription or recreational drugs? Do you have a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who uses prescription or recreational drugs? If you answered “yes” to any of these three questions, then this website is for you. AND even if you didn’t answer “yes,” this website is still worth checking out.

When visiting skagitrising.org, you will find an abundance of information. You can:

  • Review data
  • Learn how opioids impact the brain
  • Find out common symptoms of addiction
  • Read tips for talking to your doctor, kids and/or elders
  • Learn how to help in an opioid overdose and how to reduce stigma
  • Read about treatment terms and types
  • Discover resources and support services
  • Find out what is being done in Skagit County
  • Find ways that you can get involved

P.S. There are more topics than those just listed … but I can’t give is all away! You’ll have check out SkagitRising for yourself.

Resources

While SkagitRising is an opioid and substance use resource website, we understand there are many factors that influence an individual’s ability to live a healthy life. This is why you will find resources not only pertaining to treatment and recovery, but also housing, urgent care, legal, veterans, and senior services. SkagitRising also offers resources for employers, community members and property owners, and medical providers and prescribers.  

Additionally, throughout SkagitRising, you will see several sections of text or images that are linked to external reputable websites such as stopoverdose.org, the WA Recovery Helpline, the WA State Department of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Help spread the word! Please consider sharing SkagitRising by word-of-mouth, by posting about this website on social media or by displaying SkagitRising Rack Cards (available in English and Spanish) in your place of business.

If you would like to request Rack Cards, add to or edit the listed resources, or have questions, please contact us here: https://skagitrising.org/contact/