EVERETT — Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday he will ask for an additional $50 million in the current state budget to fight the opioid crisis.
Inslee announced the funding, which would be directed to expanding a range of efforts, including education about the risks of fentanyl and treating opioid use disorder, before he met with treatment providers, advocates, first responders and students at a new treatment program in Everett, Washington State.
The Inslee administration is also looking into state regulations around allowing paramedics to provide an initial dose of certain medications approved for long-term treatment of opioid use disorder to people who have overdosed, in response to inquiries from first responders and providers at the event on Monday.
It’s not yet clear whether allowing that would require a change to state law.
Where the money would go
Inslee is proposing $50 million more to go to a range of programs and services to prevent opioid use, and to treat opioid use disorder.
The funds would bolster state public health outreach programs to boost awareness of the danger of fentanyl in schools and in tribal communities and expand community health hubs, which provide medical and social services for people who use drugs. Two hubs were funded in the 2023 session. The governor’s budget would add another two by 2026 and two more in 2027.
Inslee also wants the money to go toward distributing naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, to first responders and to setting up 15 machines stocked with naloxone and other health supplies in communities where overdoses are disproportionately high.
His proposed budget would also expand funding for opioid treatment programs, the only setting where patients can access methadone, one of the medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration for opioid use disorder. It would also pay for medications to treat opioid use disorder in Washington’s jails, and open six more recovery homes, with up to 50 more beds.
Inslee also wants to provide more money to police departments to “disrupt” drug rings, his office said.
Clarity on first responders, medication
Right now, the state does not explicitly permit or prohibit paramedics from giving people buprenorphine, one of the medications to treat opioid use disorder, providers and first responders said at Monday’s meeting, and clarity in the law could help. (You may have heard of Suboxone, the brand name for a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone).
The idea is that after someone has an overdose and is treated for that, a paramedic could provide a medication to treat opioid use disorder.
Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said allowing first responders to provide a dose of buprenorphine would add another tool to offer to help people withdrawing from opioids.
“Naloxone is an incredible drug, but it puts you immediately in withdrawal,” Berry said in a phone interview after Monday’s roundtable. “And withdrawal is incredibly painful, and so people will do anything they can to make that go away. And so, very commonly, they go use again.”
Berry is helping the Port Angeles Fire Department develop protocol for certain paramedics to provide an initial dose of buprenorphine after a patient has overdosed and been treated for the overdose. The department would also connect patients to longer-term opioid treatment.
What comes next
Each December, Inslee proposes a budget, but state lawmakers have the final say when it comes to how state money gets spent.
The budget is written in two-year cycles, but in the even years in between, legislators make adjustments to the two-year budget they passed in the year before. Legislators will convene in Olympia in early January for the 60-day “short” session.