Grim Board of Health meeting shows severity of fentanyl deaths in King County

The latest drug epidemic in King County has worsened to a point that the county is struggling to store bodies.

The county this year has had 41 confirmed deaths by drug overdose through Jan. 18. Last year saw a record-shattering 1,019 deaths by overdose. That is a 43% increase over the county's previous high of 709 cases in 2021.

Fentanyl was involved in 70% of King County overdose deaths as of December, 2022.

Through Jan. 18 this year, there have already been 31 King County overdose deaths that involved fentanyl, according to Seattle and King County Public Health. The most recent King County Board of Health meeting emphasized how the drug has affected the county.

“A key indication of just how bad things are at the end of 2022 and likely to get worse in 2023: the Medical Examiner’s Office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies, because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb,” Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan said at a King County Board of Health meeting on Jan. 19.

Khan added that sustained and significant funding at a federal level are what is needed to begin to make a difference in reducing the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

The Center Square previously reported that King County is increasing funding to work with community-based organizations to expand distribution of naloxone in vulnerable populations and increase access to educational materials to reduce the risks of overdoses.

Naloxone costs $52 per dose, according to Khan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has also directed Public Health to coordinate with the King County Department of Community and Human Services and King County Regional Homeless Authority to build solutions that mitigate the risk of fatal overdose.

Seattle and King County Public Health did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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