People concerned about opioid abuse in Walla Walla County and the region can learn what local agencies and providers are doing to address the issue at a free forum tonight during a Community Forum on Opioid Abuse from 7-9 p.m. at Walla Walla Housing Authority, 501 Cayuse St.

The forum, by the Oregon Washington Health Network, is the second of three this spring and summer, Health Network manager Dan Peterson said. The first was in April in Pendleton, and the last will be in August in La Grande. 

A previous forum in 2017 in Pendleton had 40 attendees, and the one earlier this year had 25. This is the first forum

the agency has had in Walla Walla County, he said.

After the meetings, the Oregon Washington Health Network’s regional opioid response plan will be published, likely by Sept. 30, Peterson said.

“It is impossible to know how many folks are addicted to opioids in Walla Walla County,” he wrote in an email this week.

Alyssa Wells, administrative assistant at the Walla Walla County Coroner’s Office, said this morning that seven people have died of drug overdoses in the county this year, including five related to opioid use. 

Two other deaths are suspected of being drug overdoses, but the Coroner’s Office is awaiting toxicology reports to confirm them.

The forums are funded by a $200,000 Health Resources & Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program grant, he said. The grant runs from Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019.

Peterson said he will moderate the forum, and a court reporter will be on hand. 

Sponsors include: Oregon Washington Health Network, Umatilla County Human Services, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health, and Providence St. Mary Medical Center.