Washington Department of Health launches opioid prevention campaign

Washington Department of Health launches opioid prevention campaign

The Washington State Department of Health just launched a statewide campaign with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its focus is the opioid epidemic here in Washington.

"Opioids carry the risk for dependence and addiction,” said Julie Graham with the Washington State DOH.

According to the Washington DOH, since 2000, over 10,000 people in Washington have died from an opioid overdose.

"When we think about addiction and drug users it may not be the face that you think you're going to see. That face very well may look like someone like me,” said Rick Dawson, senior manager of surveillance and investigation at the Benton-Franklin Health District.

The CDC is partnering with the DOH to create ads with personal testimonies about the risks and dangers of prescription opioids.

"We want to make sure people are aware of the dangers of not only taking opioids but the long-term opportunities for treatment that do exist,” Graham said.

One of those opportunities for treatment is right here in the Tri- Cities. About a month ago a syringe exchange opened in Pasco.

"The exchange started relatively slowly. We learned some things about some of the needs of the people and the clients that were coming in. That they needed more education on harm reduction,” Dawson said.

The syringe exchange is what experts call a harm reduction plan.

“Syringe exchange services can be a foot in the door for other sorts of services that can help people,” Graham said.

Giving clients clean syringes puts them at less of a risk for infection like HIV or Hepatitis C.

"At least based on the numbers of the exchanges that we're seeing and the exchanges that are happening this is actually going to work,” Dawson said.

The syringe exchange can also link clients with treatment, medication and services when they are ready, Dawson said.

"Statistically users of exchange services like this are significantly more likely to enter treatment than those that are not,” Dawson said.

The CDC's ads will be online, on the radio, on billboards and in newspapers.

Over a thousand needles were exchanged last month, experts at the Benton-Franklin Health District predict even higher numbers for the month of June.

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