Suits: Homeless deaths at record highs due to drug crisis
Fentanyl-related deaths are at record highs among the homeless population, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s 2022 report.
The 310 deaths in King County surpassed the previous record of 195 homeless deaths set in 2018, with the Seattle Times reporting a 65% jump over 2021. The article claims a majority of the deaths are caused by exposure, suicide, and health factors untreated and exacerbated by living outside.
Last year, Public Health – Seattle & King County distributed more than 10,000 kits of naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, and about 100,000 fentanyl test strips. In addition, the agency is leading public awareness campaigns about the synthetic opioid and helping people find treatment.
Fentanyl has been driving overdose fatalities in the county more broadly, regardless of people’s housing status. As of November, it was involved in 70% of all confirmed overdose deaths in the county in 2022, according to a recent report by Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“Pioneer Square and Occidental Square were filled with staggering, filthy people who were just drunk. The sea change was the prevalence of opioids on the West Coast and all that. Now, frankly, it would be pleasant to see a wino with a bottle of Thunderbird. It’s the deadly fentanyl, and it’s got nothing to do with lack of shelter,” Suits said. “We’re only in January over 2022, which was a 65% increase over the prior year. If it’s not that same number, it will go up.”
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