King County: 685 fentanyl overdoses in 2022 compared to 3 in 2015

Mar 6, 2023, 1:36 PM
King County, like many counties nationwide, is facing a fentanyl epidemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

King County, like many counties nationwide, is facing a fentanyl epidemic. The King County Prosecutor’s Office cited 685 overdoses related to fentanyl in 2022, eight years removed from 2015’s mark of just three.

Since the start of 2023, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reported 35 people have died from a fentanyl-related overdose.

Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s Office, revealed a specific instance with fentanyl last November regarding a child.

‘It just takes one time:’ Fentanyl’s deadly toll across WA, US shows no signs of slowing

“They said that they found meth, and the mother admitted there was fentanyl in the child’s SpongeBob plate that was in the center console,” McNerthney told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Newsradio. “And also, they said there was a history of fentanyl shortly after the child was born. She was in court last week and charged with endangerment with a controlled substance. It really is a heartbreaking case, and when you see the photos from this case, anytime that you see a child involved in a case like this — a child endangerment case — it’s hard to unsee it.”

According to recently revealed court documents, at 2:55 a.m. on Nov. 29, Redmond police were called to a gas station because a car was parked at a gas pump for three hours.

When officers approached, they found a 28-year-old woman slumped over with her 3-month-old son. According to the report, loose narcotics and a pipe were just inches away from the child and the child’s plate.

“What’s also really heartbreaking is when children don’t die from this, they can still suffer from very serious brain damage,” McNerthney said. “We’re not exactly sure of all the long-term consequences, and there’s not one way only the children can ingest this.”

But according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, a parent can only be charged with felony child endangerment — unless the child dies — if meth is involved, which is why it was possible for the county to charge the Redmond incident as a felony case.

Due to the Blake decision invalidating the state’s drug possession law back in 2021, the prosecutor’s office can only use a law known as reckless endangerment by a controlled substance, which is a felony charge when a dependent child is intentionally exposed to methamphetamine.

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However, if the child is exposed to fentanyl, and the child survives, the county is limited to a misdemeanor charge, which the prosecutor’s office has described as disproportionate to the danger and the harm of the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

“It’s unlikely that there’s going to be a change in this session,” McNerthney said. “It really just has to catch up to where we are in the fentanyl crisis to try to help people get that court-ordered treatment.”

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King County: 685 fentanyl overdoses in 2022 compared to 3 in 2015