On Monday, June 5, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hosted a roundtable discussion in Everett about Snohomish County’s fentanyl crisis with first responders, local elected leaders, city officials, Tribal leaders, health specialists, law enforcement, and members of the community who have been personally impacted by the problem. “This is a real plague that has stricken our county, state, and nation,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “We’ve been working on similar issues like opioids for many years, but fentanyl is a whole new beast.”

Fentanyl related drug overdoses have been on the rise in recent years, with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention projects that the State of Washington experienced the second highest increase among U.S. states in reported drug overdose deaths from 2021 to 2022, an increase of 21.4%. Nationwide drug overdose deaths are projected to reach 109,680. “This is a crisis, and our nation needs to understand that,” said Senator Cantwell. “This fentanyl crisis is something that people haven’t seen. The level of addiction, and its power is so strong and high, the amount of fentanyl hitting our streets is so inexpensive that it is reaching in ways people really haven’t imagined.”

Washington has had a long history of combating opioid and methamphetamine abuse problems in recent years. “We’ve had an integrated approach battling those epidemics, but it seems like this issue is even bigger, which is why we need to meet it at a national level,” said Senator Cantwell. “We need to have a task force response that helps the communities get the resources they need to fight it and coordinate with the DEA and local law enforcements to tackle this.” Behavioral health and its treatment were also a topic of concern brought but by the senator, with it being as big of a priority as stopping the fentanyl crisis.

“We want to restore hope to the community, and bring these loved people back to life,” said Lindsey Arrington who runs the HOPE Soldiers foundation. Which is grassroots peer support organization that specializes in freeing people from addiction. “The best solutions often come from the people on the front line, and this is no different. Our communities need more tools to fight this scourge, and we need a task force approach that brings all our resources to bear on this epidemic,” said Senator Cantwell. There are currently multiples plans in the works to address and tackle this growing issue, such as the previously mentioned tasks forces and outreach programs. Going forward and dealing with this national crisis will be a difficult road, it will take the work and support for government officials, community leaders, and members.