Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers last Tuesday announced the formation of a new coalition to address the opioid crisis.

The Opioid Response Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group has a 12-month action plan that aims to reduce abuse and related criminal activity, lessen availability of the drug, collect data to monitor progress and provide the public updates, decrease “collateral damage to communities,” and increase resources, according to a county news release.

“We’ve learned in law enforcement that we can’t arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary in a news release. “We’ve also learned that the only way to make any significant impact is through collaborative partnerships and by addressing the problem at the local level. By coordinating the efforts that are already in place across the county, I believe we can be more effective and efficient in our response to the crisis.”

A Washington State Department of Health study released on May 5 shows Snohomish County had the second highest mortality rate in Washington last year — nearly one in every six cases statewide. The numbers illuminate a rise in the use of synthetic opioids, according to the Snohomish County Health District.

“Not a single community or neighborhood has been spared,” said health district administrator Jefferson Ketchel.

Opioid-related overdose deaths appear to be on the decline locally, but use of the drug is likely as prolific as ever. The agency tracks and records that data annually.

According to the county, opioid deaths accounted for the majority of all deaths that occurred as a result of an overdose between 2006 and 2016. That includes heroin, prescription and synthetic opioids. In a recent study conducted by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institution, about 82 percent of participants at a local syringe exchange wanted to get clean.

The countywide plan aligns areas of focus with the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and has established core area team leads. They will be responsible for connecting with community organizations and officials to carry out the work, according to the release.

“Our guiding principles for this effort are collaboration and coordination for the benefit of all of our residents,” said Somers in the release. “We are a community coming together. To facilitate collaboration, I have directed the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management to partially activate the Emergency Coordination Center to support this effort.”

The initiative is not a formal declaration of emergency, according to the release. It helps provide more staff resources for coordination and communication throughout the county.

The county conducted its first Point-In-Time survey of overdoses this year throughout the course of a week in July; emergency services agencies, hospitals and clinics contributed data. It was found that the majority of overdoses were the result of heroin use.

“Only been injecting a few months; smoking before that. Dope was strong. Only used a little but ‘went out,’ ” a patient is quoted saying in the results of the survey. Within the week, two dozen people were saved by a naloxone injection; sixteen were administered by a friend or family member. About 73 percent of those surveyed were white. The ethnicity of about 5 percent was unknown, and the remaining 5 percent were either Alaska Native/ American Indian, Black or Hispanic/Latino.

Those surveyed were about evenly male and female.

“The opioid epidemic is often referred to as a public health crisis, and that’s certainly true,” said Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Mark Beatty. “However, public health alone cannot end the epidemic. It requires each of us working together with a shared purpose.”

In addition to the group’s formation, an online presence has been developed for the public to access resources that comprehensively cover the crisis at snohomishoverdoseprevention.com.