“On Washington State’s northernmost coast resides the Lummi People, a sovereign indigenous nation of approximately 6,600 people. For the past several years, the health of the Pacific Northwest fishing community has been threatened by opioid addiction. The age-adjusted mortality rate from opioid overdoses is more than 3.5 times higher among the Lummi People than in Washington State as a whole.
Dr. Justin Iwasaki, former Executive Medical Director at the Lummi Tribal Health Center, was seeing the opioid crisis unfold everyday before his eyes. It was the nation’s most pressing health crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was further heightened within Lummi Nation. Yet his day-to-day role in primary care only provided one view of the opioid problem. As someone who had previously redesigned public health systems, Justin knew the importance of trying to understand the root causes of this systemic problem.”