(The Center Square) – King County has recorded more drug overdose deaths in 10 months than in all of 2022, which itself had a record-shattering number of overdose deaths.
There have been 1,024 deaths attributed to drug overdoses in 2023 at the time of publication. Out of the 1,024 deaths in King County, 834 involved fentanyl, according to statistics from Seattle-King County Public Health.
In all of 2022, there were 1,000 drug overdose deaths, with 714 attributed to fentanyl. Last year saw a 42% increase in overdose deaths from 2021, a record annual number for the county.
The 1,024 deaths that occurred over nearly 10 months is over double the 506 drug overdoses in 2020.
King County Executive Dow Constantine recently announced a new proposal to spend $21 million in settlements to be used for community-based overdose prevention services.
According to Constantine’s office, services could entail locating drug prevention and response programs in supportive housing, expanding counseling services and providing access to services for people not connected to care.
Jamie Housen, director of communications at the Seattle Mayor’s Office, said the latest statistics are a clear indicator of the need for the city to continue efforts to address the fentanyl and synthetic drug crisis going on in Seattle streets.
“Mayor [Bruce] Harrell has made it a priority to act with urgency and drive innovative solutions to this growing challenge that is killing people and causing disorder throughout the city,” Housen said to The Center Square in an email.
Housen pointed to Harrell’s recent actions that seek to utilize a dual public health and public safety approach. This includes prioritizing treatment for people addicted to drugs and working with law enforcement to hold dealers, traffickers and those causing the most harm accountable.
Last month, the Seattle City Council passed a drug possession bill that aligns with the state’s new law making the use or possession of controlled substances in a public place a gross misdemeanor. The legislation emphasizes jail diversion as the preferred approach when enforcing laws against the public use and possession of drugs.
Harrell’s office expects Seattle police officers to offer diversion services when approaching suspects in such cases.