WA Rep. launches task force against fentanyl in central Washington
May 25, 2023, 1:10 PM | Updated: 3:55 pm
(Screenshot from live C-SPAN session)
In response to the growing wave of fentanyl in the Pacific Northwest — particularly how easily it can be exposed to young children — Congressman Dan Newhouse, a Republican representative of central Washington, created a task force to tackle the crisis.
Just this week, three children were exposed to fentanyl in an Everett hotel room where they were living with their parents, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The 11-month-old baby boy, his twin sister, and his 11-year-old brother were all checked out at a local hospital and are in the custody of child protective services.
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“Fentanyl is an illicit drug that’s coming into the U.S., much of it over our southern border, and is truly devastating our communities,” Newhouse said on The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “I think the number last year for people dying from drug overdoses was something over 120,000. That’s almost double the number of [American soldiers] that were killed during the Vietnam War. It’s just a terrible thing that’s happening. It’s truly a crisis.”
The task force includes members from law enforcement, people working within addiction treatment groups, certain medical professionals, drug court officials, school resource officers, local elected leaders, and local elected tribal leaders — who all have varying viewpoints on the fentanyl crisis — something Newhouse wanted from the start.
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“I’m very hopeful that we will have concrete direction on what we can do at local, state, and federal levels to help win this war,” Newhouse said. “As far as I know, this is the only fentanyl task force in the state of Washington.”
The task force, coined as The Central Washington Fentanyl Task Force, plans to meet on a quarterly basis, according to Newhouse.
Washington, despite ranking just 33rd in the nation for drug overdose deaths, will have the second-highest increase year-over-year in 2023 compared to all other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In King County alone, the Prosecutor’s Office cited 685 overdoses related to fentanyl in 2022, eight years removed from 2015’s mark of just three.
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“We want to know what hasn’t been working so we don’t see mistakes again to put together some things that we can use to address this issue,” Newhouse said. “And then I’m hopeful these solutions can be used nationwide for communities across the country. Obviously, I’d like to see something move forward through a federal law that would help the crisis. But certainly, things that can be done with a local or state level.”
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