King County councilmember sounds alarm on fentanyl problem in the region

Reagan Dunn is proposing increased resources in next budget to help lower rate of fentanyl deaths.

Fentanyl-related deaths in King County over past few years (courtesy of Public Health – Seattle & King County)

In response to a public safety alert issued by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency this past Monday, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is pushing for the County to increase its commitment to fentanyl overdose prevention and awareness in the upcoming supplemental budget.

“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,” Dunn said. “This is a worsening crisis that will only take more lives unless we make a meaningful commitment to get the message out that it only takes one time, one pill to end your life.”

In a letter to the Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Dunn asks to accelerate initiatives such as Public Health – Seattle & King County’s “Laced and Lethal” public awareness campaign. Laced and Lethal is an online education campaign that targets youth aged 14-18 through social media advertising.

Dunn says an additional investment would allow Public Health to broaden the campaign to traditional media and broader age groups, and educate family members on how to identify signs of drug use.

According to the DEA alert, the number of DEA-seized counterfeit pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430% since 2019, with two out of five of those pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a deadly dose.

In King County, 256 fentanyl-related deaths were confirmed in the first three quarters of 2021 — already more than double the total number of fentanyl-related deaths in 2019 and nearly 50% more than 2020’s total fentanyl-related deaths. Throughout the country, substance use has increased dramatically during the pandemic with 13% of U.S. adults reportedly stated or increased substance use.

The DEA attributes fentanyl as the primary driver of the increase in overdose deaths as well as the increase in gun violence, as described in the public safety alert. In 2021, the DEA seized more than 2,700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations – a 30% increase since 2019.

King County’s 2021 Mid-Biennial Omnibus Budget is scheduled to be transmitted to the Council on September 30 and will be considered over the next two months, with final Council action scheduled for November 23.


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