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King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders brings together local leaders, record-level attendees to talk about ongoing drug crisis

Summary

More than 500 people attended (virtually and in-person) the third annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders on Thursday, the largest crowd since the conference’s inception in 2021

Story

More than 500 people attended (virtually and in-person) the third annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders on Thursday, the largest crowd since the conference’s inception in 2021. This year’s conference featured regional leaders and experts in substance use disorder and recovery, sharing the latest trends and resources to respond to the ongoing addiction and overdose crisis.

“I was incredibly pleased by the large crowd and impactful discussions happening at our third annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “There is a lot of interest in collaborating and working across the aisle to help folks struggling with substance use disorder find their road to recovery. The hope in the room was tangible — and I believe that, together, we can find real solutions to tackle the ongoing drug and overdose crisis.”

Dunn first launched the King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders in 2021 and advocated for $50,000 in funding for the conference in King County’s 2023-24 Biennial Budget. Dunn, who is representing the King County Council, partnered with Public Health – Seattle & King County Strategic Advisor on Behavioral Health Brad Finegood, King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Leo Flor, and King County Recovery Coalition Director Heather Venegas to organize yesterday’s conference.

“More and more people are suffering overdoses across our region, and nationwide. King County is charting a path forward to build a behavioral health system that meets people where they are and ensures every resident has access to opportunities for health, wellness, and, if needed, recovery,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “People can and do recover, especially when opportunities are available to connect to community and access low-barrier treatment. I want to thank Councilmember Dunn for launching this important conference and continuing the conversation around substance use disorder.”

Attendees of the conference heard from local, state, and national leaders like former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, substance use and recovery expert Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, Washington State Representative Lauren Davis, Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson, and national recovery advocate and author Ryan Hampton on topics ranging from “What is on the Horizon for Care” and “Reducing Stigma to Increase Recovery,” to “Empowering students in the Seattle Recovery School” and personal stories from those who are in recovery.

Currently in King County, deaths caused by overdoses are tragically surging. In 2022, fatal overdoses due to fentanyl rose by over 550% over the previous four years, and 42% since 2021, the previous record-high year. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid drug that is 50-100 times more powerful than other opioids. So far this year, King County is experiencing a higher rate of fatal overdoses (3.61 overdose deaths per day) compared to 2022 (2.76 overdose deaths per day). These trends can be found on the Public Health – Seattle & King County Overdose Data Dashboard.

Anyone who is struggling with mental health or substance use disorders can get connected to treatment and resources by calling SAMHSA's National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or the Washington State Recovery Helpline: 1-866-789-1511.

Video recordings of the conference will be released next week on King County TV.

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