Health Care

Inslee wants to spend $50M more to combat opioid crisis

He’s including it in his budget proposal to Washington State lawmakers ahead of next month’s start to the new session.
Washington Sen. Karen Keiser (D), left, and Gov. Jay Inslee (D), seated. (AP Photo / Rachel La Corte)

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is calling for another $50 million in state spending to fight the flow of illegal opioids into Washington State and to provide services for people with substance use disorder.

The governor included the funding in the budget proposal he will ask state lawmakers to consider in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January next year. The money would go to public health campaigns in schools, recovery houses and expanded access to medically assisted treatment, including in tribal communities and prisons.

“We’re putting treatment closer to people and we’re going to save lives,” Inslee said during a Monday roundtable at Evergreen Recovery Center in Everett.

Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget would add to about $200 million for combating illegal opioids included in the two-year state budget for 2023 to 2025, the governor’s office said. It also comes as the state is tapping another $82 million from opioid settlements with drug manufacturers and pharmacies.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Washington had the sharpest rise in overdose deaths of any state in the most recent 12-month reporting period. Tribes have been hit especially hard. American Indian and Alaska Native residents far outpace other races and ethnicities in overdose deaths, according to state Department of Health data.

As part of a harm reduction campaign, the governor wants to distribute more naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, to first responders. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, recently became available over-the-counter for about $50 for two doses.

Police departments would also receive funding for drug stings.

“We’re reaching the people most vulnerable to this fentanyl scourge,” Inslee said. “And we’re getting drugs off the street.”

Fentanyl, a particularly powerful and deadly opioid, has been flooding into the state and over the summer was selling for as little as 50 cents or less per pill.

In addition, Inslee wants to create four more “community health hubs,” a concept included in his original 2023-2025 budget. The hubs are meant to provide low-barrier health and social services, including primary care, wound care, substance use disorder treatment and overdose education. The state Health Care Authority is already working on launching two hubs in 2024. The additional hubs Inslee has proposed would launch in 2026 and 2027.

Tribes would also receive funding to support their own public health campaigns and to implement a pilot program of what’s known as the  “Icelandic Prevention Model,” an approach to reducing youth substance use that emphasizes community involvement and changing a child’s social environment, rather than focusing on individual behavior. The “Rise Above” program, which uses a similar approach and is led by a Native youth non-profit, would also receive funding.

This story was first published by the Washington State Standard, part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.