The human toll of the Opioid Epidemic, which has been raging nationwide since the 1990s, has been severe in Pierce County and the greater Puget Sound area. Since 2013, the epidemic has been in what epidemiologists call the ‘third wave’ characterized by significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those including illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
Pierce County expects to receive $29 million in funding from various opioid settlements over the next 17 years, with the Pierce County funding region expected to receive a total of $48 million. These settlements result from opioid manufacturers knowingly marketing opioids as non-addictive ways to manage chronic pain.
On Tuesday, June 20, the Pierce County Council took steps to convene cities, towns, and subject matter experts to ensure their collective investments with these settlements will have a substantial impact in addressing this epidemic and helping people heal with the adoption of Resolution No. R2023-91. The resolution authorizes the Pierce County Executive to enter an Interlocal Agreement, or ILA, to create the Pierce County Opioid Abatement Council (OAC) with the cities of Auburn, Bonney Lake, Edgewood, Fife, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Puyallup, Sumner, Tacoma, and University Place.
“Only together will we be able to overcome this man-made epidemic,” said Councilmember Jani Hitchen (District 6), who also chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “The Opioid Abatement Council will help us ensure these and future funds get spent per the settlement’s approved uses, which include treatment programs to recover from addiction and educational programs about the harms of opioid abuse.”
One member from each party comprises the OAC. Members are appointed by each party’s governing body for three-year terms. Members can serve multiple terms. While members of the OAC can choose to leave their position vacant, the OAC must have at least five members.
The Pierce County Auditor’s Office administers the OAC. At the end of each fiscal year, the Auditor’s Office will send each party an itemized invoice for their administrative expenses related to the OAC, which will be pro-rated based on a formula used to distribute the settlement funds.
As of Tuesday, June 20, the Resolution forming the OAC is pending signature from the County Executive.