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Washington Senator attends opioid epidemic community roundtable in Seattle

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U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, attended a community roundtable to discuss the opioid epidemic earlier this week.

The Senator heard from first responders, health care providers, law enforcement, and community members impacted by fentanyl during the discussion roundtable at Fire Station 10 in downtown Seattle.

It was the Senator’s fourth listening session as she aims to learn more about how the opioid epidemic is impacting Washington state. Previously, she held roundtable discussions in Pierce County, Snohomish County, and Benton County.

“We are looking for the feedback and solutions that are working here on the ground, but obviously, we are here because this is a crisis,” Cantwell said. “We need to take a multi-pronged approach to tackling this crisis. That means increasing capacity for treatment centers, better supporting first responders and law enforcement, including stocking them with naloxone and Narcan, and helping people before they become addicted by increasing our mental health care workforce, affordable housing, and better educating the public on how deadly fentanyl is. We also need to cut off the supply of this scourge before it gets into our communities in the first place.”

At the Seattle roundtable, participants included Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell; representatives from the Seattle Fire Department, Evergreen Treatment Services, the Center for Community-Engaged Drug Addiction, Epidemiology and Research (CEDEER) at UW’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute, and the Perigee Fund; plus two former fentanyl addicts.

“Fentanyl is taking too many lives and harming too many families in every city, county, and state in this country,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said. “We need a comprehensive, all-hands-on-deck approach to hold those who are trafficking deadly drugs accountable and help people struggling with substance use disorder access the treatment and supportive services they deserve. This work is too important to not have everyone at the table, which is why we will continue to work with federal partners, service providers, law enforcement, and anyone willing to lend a hand to advance effective, sustainable solutions to the deadly public health crisis we are seeing on our streets and in our communities.”

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state, beating out car accidents and firearms, according to the release.

In the 12-month period ending in February 2023, the United States endured 105,258 drug overdose deaths and drug poisonings, according to the Centers For Disease Control; 67% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.

Additionally, Washington state endured a 21.4% increase in reported drug overdose deaths in that stretch compared to the previous 12 months.

King County alone endured 712 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2022, a sharp increase from the 23 it endured in 2016.

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