Opioid Crisis: Auburn's Story

"The heroin epidemic has had a profound effect not just on our region, but across our country as a whole. It is critical that we not only move forward with meaningful solutions that support prevention and treatment, but that we remove the stigma surrounding addiction that often creates barriers to those seeking help." 
-Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus

A State, Regional and Local Issue

The Issue

Fatal overdoses linked to heroin climbed by 58% in the Seattle/King County area last year, the largest rise in local drug-related deaths in 17 years (Seattle Times 2015)! Regionally in our area there has been an increase in the use and abuse of heroin and other prescription opiates. This is not only just our state, our regional or our local issue- this is an issue that is far reaching across the country. Heroin use has increased across all demographics, men and women, and most age groups and all income levels.

Washington State Opiate Trends

According to the Washington State Department of Health- heroin killed 293 people in Washington last year, about twice as many as in 2008 (DOH 2015). State agencies, local health departments and professional groups across the State of Washington are actively building networks and working together to reduce overdose incidents and mortality rates with opioids.
Key Facts
  • Deaths attributed to any opiate from 2004 to 2014 statewide: 30% Increase
  • Total number of drug caused deaths involving opioids in 2013: 608 Total
  • Crime lab data for police evidence testing for opioids between 2002-2004 and 2011-2013: 85% Increase

King County Opiate Trends

Along with being the most populus county in the state of Washington, King County has the most drug users and deaths compared to the other counties in the state. In 2013 the number of deaths in King County was 187 alone. Also, these increase in deaths, uses and abuses of heroin and other opiates have out paced the the rate of the availabilty of treatments in King County.
  • Deaths attributed to any opiate (Annual Rate per 100,00) between 2002-2004 vs 2011-2013: 21.1% Increase
  • Crime lab cases involving any opiate (Annual Rate per 100,00) between 2002-2004 to 2011-2013: 48.2% Increase
  • Publicly funded treatment admissions involving any opiate (Annual Rate per 10,000) between 2002- 2004 vs 2011-2013: 80.7% Increase
Opiate Death Rates Over Time- King County (per 100,000 population)

Auburn Opiate Trends

Auburn is not alone in this battle. Trends all across the Puget Sound Region from Seattle to Tacoma to Bellevue, including Auburn, have been on the increase. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in this area opiates/opioids were the top drug in drug related deaths and drug related suicide deaths in 2010.  
  • The seized amount of heroin by Auburn Police Department from 2014 to 2015:  85.21% Increase
  • Number of cases involving a controlled substance by Auburn Police Department from 2012 to 2016: 24.21% Increase

Auburn Police Department (APD) Statistics

APD Drug Stats: Seizures of controlled Substances
APD Cases Involving a Controlled Substance

Moving Forward

The Fight

"This is where the rubber hits the road," said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green about the formation of the new joint task force to combat opiate and heroin addiction in King County area. Dr. Banta-Green is one of the many members of the task force that represents 32 different local city government, law enforcement, schools/universities, tribes and social service agencies and more. The recommendations from the task force are, Primary Prevention, Treatment Expansion and Enhancement and User Health and Overdose Prevention.

Heroin & Opioid Addiction Task Force Recommendations

A task force of experts from a wide range of disciplines delivers a list of recommendations to confront a heroin and opioid epidemic that has caused fatal overdoses across the region.
More information on the Task Force can be found here.