Inslee launches executive order to combat opioid crisis

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Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order today that brings together state agencies, local public health organizations, law enforcement, tribal governments, and other partners to act on opioids. The executive order identifies key aspects of the state’s current opioid response plan that can be implemented immediately as part of a strategic statewide effort to prevent opioid use disorder and overdose deaths.

The executive order was announced at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle with more than 100 county and city leaders, medical professionals and families impacted by opioid use disorder.

“Today is a day of solidarity, a day of renewed resolution and a day of action where we stand together to say enough is enough,” Inslee said. “We all have an important role to play in the statewide movement to fight one of the most devastating crises facing our communities today — the public health crisis of opioids and heroin.”

Opioid overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in nearly every part of the state, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and firearm-related deaths. Last year, 718 people died from opioid overdoses in Washington. In the first three months of this year, at least 188 died due to opioid overdose. While prescription opioid drug deaths have declined, heroin overdose deaths are increasing, particularly among young people.

“Opioid use disorder is a preventable and treatable chronic disease, much like diabetes or heart disease, and needs to be treated as such,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said.

Washington has already taken some important actions, developing a first-in-the-nation set of guidelines to help health care providers treat pain, launching a Statewide Opioid Response Plan, and joining a multi-state compact.

“The solutions are multi-faceted and range from prevention education to syringe services and the availability of effective treatment options,” said Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director at the state Department of Labor & Industries, UW research professor and chair of the State Agency Medical Directors Group. “Washington results have been strong — a 37 percent sustained reduction in prescription opioid-associated deaths, the biggest decline in the nation. However, more needs to be done to save lives.”

The Executive Order focuses on four major goals:

Goal 1: Prevent inappropriate opioid prescriptions and use

  • Help prevent younger people from becoming addicted by amending practice guidelines to reflect what adolescents really need, limit adolescent prescriptions and prevent overdose.
  • Use proven strategies for prevention education. Agencies will develop a communication strategy geared to youth, to patients and to the community.
  • Expand tele-mentoring programs, such as UW TelePain and add a pharmacy hotline program — two important tools to help primary care providers working with patients who use opioids.
  • Decrease the supply of illegal opioids such as heroin and Fentanyl in our state. The Attorney General’s Office will convene a summit in partnership prosecutors, courts and law enforcement agencies.

Goal 2: Treat people with opioid use disorder and connect them to support services, including housing

  • Implement behavioral health integration and center of excellence models, including screening for opioid use disorder and increasing medication-assisted and other treatments in an accessible manner.
  • Ensure availability of rapid, low-barrier access to treatment medications for people with opioid use disorder, especially pregnant women, intravenous drug users and those who are homeless.
  • Ensure recently released offenders with opioid use disorder are connected with care.
  • Reduce insurance and state program coverage barriers for treatment and services related to effective pain management, opioid use disorder and naloxone for overdose reversal.

Goal 3: Save lives by intervening in overdoses

  • Educate opioid users and others on how to respond to an overdose and make sure those who are covered by state Medicaid receive overdose education and access to naloxone.
  • Consider centralizing naloxone for bulk purchasing for public health use to increase availability.

Goal 4: Use data to focus and improve our work

  • Develop statewide measures to help state officials and partners better detect unsafe prescribing practices and help identify patients at high risk of opioid use disorder.
  • Improve functionality and use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for health care providers.
  • Explore methods to notify health care providers when a patient has an opioid overdose event.

Many of the actions outlined in Inslee’s order build on recommendations developed by health care leaders as part of a task force on opioid use.

"We applaud Gov. Inslee for his leadership in addressing the opioid crisis in Washington state,” said Ray C. Hsiao, MD, chair of the Washington State Medical Association and Washington State Hospital Association Joint Opioid Safe Practices Task Force, and co-director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “The task force focused on improving and implementing safe prescribing practices and pain management as well as opioid abuse prevention and addiction support. We strongly support Gov. Inslee’s approach to address this crisis."

A status report is due in December and will help determine what additional legislative action is needed.

Media Contacts

Tara Lee
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office