EVERETT, Wash. – After Governor Jay Inslee unveiled his plans to battle the opioid crisis, dozens of medical professionals in Snohomish County are now ready to help on the front lines by making it easier for opioid sufferers to get the help they need.
They have completed training to prescribe a controversial drug designed to help addicts overcome the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that often stop them from getting clean.
“It does not play favorites,” said Dr. Tom Tocher. “It picks any age, gender; it doesn’t discriminate.”
Tocher, from Community Health Center of Snohomish County, began helping people fight their addictions back in 2003. He was one of the first physicians in Western Washington to use Suboxone and/or Vivitrol to help opioid users going through withdrawal and cravings. And today, he says, the need for therapy is greater than ever.
“There’s bound to be somebody in your life that you’re connected to,” he said, “you may just not know it.”
In 2017 Tocher says Snohomish County saw on average eight overdoses every day, and 100 were fatal throughout the entire year.
Now in 2018, Tocher says 40 doctors, nurses and other professionals at seven Community Health Centers in Arlington, Everett, Lynnwood and Edmonds are approved to offer the therapy.
Tocher says patients who qualify can begin treatment quickly and it’s only a normal visit with a doctor – which could help break the stigma of treatment.
"You can live a normal life and be on these therapies and people don’t have to know, it’s just like going to a regular doctor’s visit," he said.
But not everybody will qualify, says Tocher. Patients have to be ready to make a change and know that the first time may not be the magic bullet for everyone.
For now, his colleagues at the non-profit clinics can handle 1,200 patients this year –and as many as 4,000 during the next cycle. But with more than 50,000 people Tocher believes to be abusing opioids in Snohomish County, the need for therapy still outpaces the availability.
“This is not a magic bullet but it’s a tool in our toolbox and we should be using more of it,” he said.