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King County announces new strategies to combat fentanyl overdose crisis

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(The Center Square) – With the fentanyl crisis showing no signs of slowing down, King County officials have announced they are implementing new efforts to stop the surge of overdoses and to expand treatment.

On Monday, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced five priority actions to prevent overdoses in King County: expanding residential treatment for people with substance use disorders; creating a 24/7 buprenorphine prescribing line, which can be taken as a replacement in the treatment of opioid dependence; increasing new mobile crisis outreach teams; finding a permanent location for the sobering center; and increasing distribution of naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, and testing strips throughout the county.

According to a news release from Constantine’s office, the five priority actions will be funded by a combination of resources including the MIDD Behavioral Health Sales Tax, which is a countywide 0.1% sales tax generating approximately $136 million per two-year biennium; the Crisis Care Centers Levy, which costs property owners 15 cents per $1,000 assessed value; Medicaid; commercial insurance; and state and federal funds.

Constantine is pushing the new strategies as a result of grim statistics from last year. According to Public Health-Seattle and King County, there were a record-shattering 1,323 drug overdose deaths throughout King County in 2023, with 82% of deaths involving fentanyl.

As of Monday, there have been 157 overdose deaths in 2024.

“The increasingly dangerous drug supply across the state and nation, dominated by fentanyl, is contributing to a devastating increase in deaths,” Constantine said in a statement. “There is so much more to do, which is why King County is also working upstream to help prevent substance use disorder – and provide services and treatment for anyone who needs it.”

The new action plan includes $2 million in grant funding from opioid settlement funds dedicated to underserved populations with high overdose rates.

King County is also partnering with Pioneer Human Services to open a 16-bed residential treatment program in Seattle dedicated for people with mental health and substance use disorders.

“Everyone is deserving of empathy and respect, no matter what they are going through, and these resources will ensure we meet those in crisis with the dignity and urgency they deserve,” said King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay.

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