Six counties in western Washington just got a boost in the fight against opioid abuse: $5.5 million in federal funds.
The grant money was awarded to some counties that have been hit hard in the nation's opioid epidemic — a crisis that claims about two lives a day in Washington — including Snohomish, Grays Harbor, Mason, Thurston, Lewis and Pacific counties.
Workforce officials say the funds would provide job training for people undergoing treatment for opioid abuse. They hope people will seek treatment through the program and remove addiction as a barrier to their employment.
"If you are helping someone work through an addiction it is really helpful to also get them on a journey to a job," said Cheryl Fambles, the director of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council. "Because that journey allows them a focus, and it creates hope."
Fambles oversees workforce development for all the counties that recieved grant money except Snohomish. She said her counties' $2.4 million portion will be enough to train 300 people for jobs and chip away at a worker shortages employers are now facing with unemployment at a historic low.
The same amount of money would go toward preparing a projected 150 people in Snohomish county for jobs. The training would add to an existing network for opioid treatment in the county, according to Erin Monroe, the director of Workforce Snohomish.
"Being able to show up for work and have a job is a really quick path to recovery for these individuals," Monroe said.
Training would also offered to people who have lost their job caring for someone with an addiction. Monroe said the focus would be in the health care, hospitality, leisure and recreation and IT, but would also include professions aimed at fighting opioid dependency.
The boost comes as Gov. Jay Inslee tries to home in on the state's opioid problem through a plan he launched this year that aims to better connect users with treatment options. That includes clinics offering addiction medication and other mental health services. The plan will also coordinate the federal job training funds.
A portion of the grant will go toward administrative costs.
This story was corrected at 9:24 a.m., Friday, 8/10/18, to reflect the correct spelling of Cheryl Fambles name.