A new task force formed to combat the opioid problem in Clark County includes the usual suspects, plus some new faces: people who have experienced that crisis.
Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health’s Clark County Opioid Task Force is compromised of people from different local arenas that have some stake in stemming the death toll from opioids. In 2017, more than 47,000 died nationally from overdoses, including 732 in Washington and 39 in Clark County.
The task force began meeting in March at Bridgeview Resource Center in Vancouver, said Jim Jensen, an opioid collaborative manager with SWACH. Jensen said the task force’s goal is to bring together people operating in different areas such as medicine, addiction recovery, government, law enforcement and those with lived experiences when it comes to opioids. He said the task force strives to be different than “your normal 16 executive directors in a room making decisions for everybody else.”
“I know there’s a lot of these folks who aren’t talking to each other,” said Jensen, who has taught at Clark College’s Addiction Counselor Education Department since 2009. “They’re all working in these silos and they all care and they all want to make a difference and they’re all impacted by overdose and death and opioid use disorder and the role it plays in crime and homelessness.”
Jensen said that having different voices in the room is already uncovering new opportunities for collaboration, and could result in a beneficial ripple effect.
Another important part of the task force is empowering and highlighting voices that wouldn’t normally get heard. One of the task force steering committee co-chairs is Charles Hanset, who has been sober from opioids for two years. Hanset is one of multiple members of the task force who have firsthand experience with opioid addiction.
“We need to try and make this a collective impact so that those voices that have been amplified over and over again they’re still amplified and brought into the room, but other voices that primarily are not as amplified are also listened to,” Jensen said.
You can help
If you’re interested in helping with the task force, email Jim Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org