King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn introduced legislation to convene a task force that will make recommendations for the development of a coordinated strategy to stop the flow of fentanyl throughout the Puget Sound region.
Story“As fentanyl trafficking has swept through our region, it has claimed the lives of many hundreds of King County residents who unknowingly ingested the dangerous drug,” said Dunn. “This is a worsening crisis that will only take more lives if we don’t interfere through a collaborative, multi-jurisdictional approach that keeps fentanyl out of our region.”
Last month, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert about the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. According to the alert, the number of DEA-seized counterfeit pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019, with two out of five of those pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a deadly dose. Just this past weekend, it was reported that five inmates at the Thurston County Jail overdosed, surviving only because Jail staff were able to administer naloxone.
In King County, there have been 284 confirmed fentanyl-related deaths so far in 2021—already more than double the total number of fentanyl-related deaths in 2019 and a 66 percent increase from 2020’s total fentanyl-related deaths. Throughout the country, substance use has increased dramatically during the pandemic with 13% of U.S. adults reportedly started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions due to COVID-19.
The DEA attributes fentanyl as the primary driver of the increase in overdose deaths as well as the increase in gun violence. In 2021, the DEA seized more than 2,700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations – a 30 percent increase since 2019.
If passed, the fentanyl task force will be led by the King County Sheriff and include members of law enforcement agencies through the region, including representatives from cities, the state, and the federal government. The report produced by this workgroup will include strategies and techniques that would enhance coordination to stop the flow of fentanyl; an analysis of needed KCSO staff and resources to coordinate fentanyl interdiction efforts; and budgetary needs to implement these findings.
Dunn’s legislation will be referred to the Law and Justice Committee to be heard later this year.