Across Washington and the nation, illicit fentanyl use has dramatically increased since 2019. Clark County is no exception.
Since 2019, 111 people have died from a fentanyl overdose in Clark County, according to Clark County Public Health data. In 2021, emergency medical services responded to 863 overdose-related calls in Clark County, many of these from fentanyl.
Two years ago, heroin was the most common opioid being abused in Clark County, according to Dr. Kevin Fischer, chief medical officer at Columbia River Mental Health Services. Today, heroin has mostly been replaced by fentanyl. An opioid user in Clark County is currently four times more likely to be using fentanyl than heroin, according to Fischer.
“I can only speak to what I’ve been told by my peers. It is a different animal,” said John Amato, peer support specialist at NorthStar clinic, part of Columbia River Mental Health Services. “The desire would be if they could go back that they would have never touched it. And it is extremely prevalent on the streets.”
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, leading to a greater risk in potentially fatal overdoses, along with more intense symptoms of withdrawal.
Fentanyl in Clark County
Signs of a fentanyl overdose include: constricted pupils; falling asleep or losing consciousness; slow, weak or no breathing; choking or gurgling sounds; limp body; cold or clammy skin; and discolored skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you think someone is exhibiting signs of an overdose, call 911 immediately. The state’s Good Samaritan Overdose Law protects you and the person you are helping from drug possession charges.
If you have access to Naloxone, also known as Narcan, administer up to three doses to reverse the effects of an overdose. Naloxone is available at pharmacies across Clark County and does not require a prescription.
Free Naloxone vending machines were installed at three locations in Clark County on Wednesday, through a collaboration between Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health and Beacon Health Options. A free Naloxone vending machine will also be available in Skamania and Klickitat counties. The vending machines in Clark county are located at the Recovery Cafe, 3312 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Suite 100, Vancouver; XChange Recovery, 21810 N.E. 37th Ave., Ridgefield; and Recovery Resource Center, 9317 N.E. Highway 99, Suite M, Vancouver.
If you or someone you know is at an increased risk for overdose, you should carry Naloxone, according to the CDC.
“There is this idea that people on fentanyl are just the homeless, stealing, breaking in the car,” said Lisa Miller, an assessment coordinator at NorthStar. “But there could be somebody sitting right across from you in a restaurant holding a perfectly normal conversation with their family who’s a fentanyl user … It’s everywhere.”
Organizations across the county are working together to treat people with fentanyl addictions. Here’s a list of addiction treatment and recovery resources around Clark County:
Recovery Cafe of Clark County
What: Recovery Cafe works with individuals impacted by addiction, homelessness and mental health issues to prevent relapse within a comfortable cafe setting. To be a member, people must be sober for 24 hours, contribute to the cafe and attend recovery circles.
Where: 3312 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Suite 100, Vancouver.
Contact: To schedule a tour and have any questions answered, call Recovery Cafe at 360-984-6163. Read about Recovery Cafe’s services at recoverycafecc.org.
What: XChange Recovery is a faith-based organization that provides recovery classes, church services, street outreach, housing and clinical services for those struggling with addiction. Peer counselors with lived experience of addiction, homelessness and mental health issues work long-term with recovering substance users to map out a plan for recovery.
Where: 21810 N.E. 37th Ave., Ridgefield.
Contact: driveoutaddiction.com or call 360-831-4440 for more information.
The REACH Center
What: The REACH Center in Vancouver provides peer support, groups, classes and activities in a sober environment for people seeking a recovery-based community. All groups are facilitated by peers with lived experience of mental health or addiction struggles.
Where: 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Building 17, Suite A114, Vancouver.
Contact: Call 360-397-8050 or go to cvabonline.org/reachcenter for more information.
Sea Mar – Community Services Northwest
What: Community Services Northwest is a division of Sea Mar that treats individuals and families struggling with addiction, homelessness and mental health. It offers various addiction programs, including services specifically for youth and women, and a 24/7 crisis line for mental health and substance emergencies. It also manages three permanent supportive housing programs and one transitional supportive housing program.
Where: 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Building 17, Suite B222, Vancouver. There are additional locations in Vancouver at 317 E. 39th St.; 2018 Grand Blvd.; and 6221 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Suite 130.
Contact: Call the 24/7 Southwest Washington Crisis Line at 800-626-8137 if you or a loved one is having a mental health or substance use emergency. For an appointment or more information about addiction treatment, call 360-558-5795. Read more about the organization’s services at csnw.org.
Columbia River Mental Health Services
What: Columbia River Mental Health Services offers addiction treatment options for adults, teens and families. The NorthStar Clinic provides patients with medication-assisted treatment to help combat opioid substance use, along with a program of daytime and evening support groups. Columbia River Mental Health Services also offers a young adult outpatient program for ages 18 to 25.
Where: 4601 N.E. 77th Ave., Suite 180, Vancouver.
Contact: crmhs.org or call 360-993-3000 for more information.
Lifeline Connections Recovery Center
What: Lifeline Connections offers services to support youth and adults with mental health and substance use disorders — from detoxification to individual therapy to peer support. Lifeline Connections also has a program to work with people in jail struggling with mental health or substance abuse and then help them transition to community-based treatment once they are released.
Where: 1601 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
Contact: lifelineconnections.org/locations/vancouver-office or call 360-397-8246 for more information.
This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.