King County Councilmember: Recovery resources needed, but local officials are enabling addiction

Mar 31, 2021, 5:31 PM
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(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A 24% increase in overdose deaths has a lot of people in King County sounding some alarms. The question then becomes: Are addiction services actually working? And how is the King County Council responding?

“It’s a scary spike. The pandemic has caused an awful lot of challenges in the behavioral health area, particularly with respect to addiction,” King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “You probably know this, that I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve been sober now for years, I’ve been open about it, but it’s an issue close to my heart.”

“We’ve seen a double-digit increase in the number of people who are now hooked on drugs and alcohol, … 40% of the entire population is suffering from anxiety or depression or some other behavioral health condition,” Dunn added. “And we have really got to up our game in terms of dealing with these issues to help people out through the course of this pandemic and beyond.”

Dunn says there aren’t enough services at the moment, and we’re not in a position to offer enough treatment to those who need it.

“There aren’t nearly enough of these services right now. For example, the Salvation Army Treatment Center closed its door and partially reopened down the street,” he said. “The county’s sole sobering center was closed, moved, put on life support, and a number of other addiction and bet space treatment facilities have been taken away.”

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“And yet we’ve seen the spike. And so we really are not in the position to give people the treatment they need, all the tools they need to find a way on a different path away from drugs and alcohol right now.”

That said, Dunn says resources are being diverted to combat this.

“The nice thing is we do have now the resources available — whether you agree with federal stimulus dollars or not — they are coming to the King County in the area of about $440 million, on this most recent $1.9 trillion from Congress, and we are now directing a significant number of those resources toward additional treatment facilities,” he said.

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“Part of that is keeping the sole sobering center open, making sure that it increases their capacity, giving grants to other programs. And one of the things that we need to do that we haven’t done — and as I’ve written just recently to county leadership — we really need to do a survey of how much bed space we have available both in King County, but also by the private nonprofit sector to see where the deficiencies lie,” the councilmember said.

He says while local resources are lacking on the recovery side of things, local officials are seemingly enabling addiction in society with bad policy.

“We don’t have enough on the recovery side of the resources, which I just spoke to,” Dunn said. “But the county, and the city, and state leaders are doing just about everything they can to enable addiction in our society right now. I mean, things like publicly funded, publicly run heroin injection sites, for example. How about the Blake decision that basically decriminalizes any possession of drugs at all?”

“You see more than 200 police officers cut, hemorrhage, quit, resign from the Seattle Police Department and a 40% reduction in sheriff’s deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office over the last decade, and what we are seeing is the culmination of a perfect storm,” he said. “You’ve got a society, now a government indeed, saying, ‘Hey, do as much drugs as you want. Don’t have a trans fat sandwich, but you can have all the drugs and heroin you want. And we’re not going to do any enforcement activity at all, and then we’re not going to back it up with the kinds of services we need.’ So that is why I’m starting to get more and more concerned, globally, about a response.”

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King County Councilmember: Recovery resources needed, but local officials are enabling addiction