Snohomish Co. Sheriff: Legislators had years to fix fentanyl crisis

May 12, 2023, 3:33 PM

fortney snohomish sheriff...

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

A 1-year-old girl from Snohomish County died on Sunday after she was taken to Swedish Hospital, and then later transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Her death is possibly connected to fentanyl exposure inside an Everett hotel room.

“At the state legislative level, do you think anything’s going to change?” AM 770 KTTH’s Jason Rantz asked Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney.

“I just don’t know. I don’t think anybody can bank on that anymore,” Fortney responded. “I actually told the Snohomish County Council about just this in some testimony and they’re debating whether we should act on this now or wait and see what the state does. And my position is, how on earth can we wait and see what the state does down in Olympia? They had four months to address this issue full-time, a long session, and they didn’t get it.”

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This tragedy occurred a month after three people were arrested in April over their connection to a 5-year-old girl’s death in Ferndale after ingesting fentanyl in her home, according to the Ferndale Police Department.

After the Washington state Legislature failed to pass drug possession legislation, Governor Jay Inslee is calling them all back into the office for a special legislative session on May 16, with the focus on passing a new drug possession law.

“This is pretty basic, as far as a baseline for society, that drugs like fentanyl, meth, and heroin should be illegal,” Fortney said. “I just don’t think there’s another side of the story. We’re all for people getting help. They can write that into the legislation, but I just don’t think, as a government, we can say that it’s ok to smoke fentanyl in public. And I’m not saying people are saying that. But when they want to decriminalize things like this, that is, in effect, what they’re saying, and it’s just not ok.”

Fortney stated the department’s press release, while having quite a bit of information, is all they can report as the sheriff’s office has to wait for the investigation, and primarily the toxicology reports to come back and confirm the death of the child.

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“But we wanted to get out to the community that this appears to be what happened, right? When our detectives go in and find these types of things inside of somebody’s room, it appears that’s what that infant passed away from,” Fortney said.

Just a few days following the 1-year-old’s death in Everett, a drug-sniffing police dog passed out from a near-fatal dose of fentanyl following a drug raid in Everett. The drug task force, serving a warrant, seized a large amount of cocaine, meth, heroin, and fentanyl in the apartment as Snohomish County Sheriff officers removed a young child from the scene as well. The dog, Sully, was administered Narcan by his handler and is now recovering.

“My heart is broken for all these cases that we’re talking about, and this fentanyl stuff is real. It’s a game changer, Jason,” Fortney said. “I mean, just a small exposure like the police dog yesterday and the infant over the weekend, and that dog almost died yesterday. If it weren’t for the quick actions of the handler, that dog would be dead right now.”

In response to the fentanyl epidemic plaguing Washington, the state’s Health Care Authority recently launched a campaign — Friends for Life — to encourage people to carry Naloxone in case a situation of an overdose occurs. Naxolone, also known as the brand Narcan, continues to become more readily available in the state through vending machines in public areas and campuses.

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“It’s sad that we’re actually having to talk about this right now,” Fortney said. “It’s sad that our elected leaders didn’t cover this in the four months they had to do it. I just can’t believe it because this wasn’t a surprise, they’ve had years. But when that session started in the first week of January, this was not a surprise to them. They knew this was coming. They knew they had to tackle it. This should have been at the very top of their priority list in Olympia, and we’re sitting here today in what is the middle of May, and if not done, all these local agencies will have to come together and pass their own ordinances because the state didn’t do it. It’s mind-boggling to me.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Snohomish Co. Sheriff: Legislators had years to fix fentanyl crisis