GEE AND URSULA

Inslee on KIRO Newsradio: Fentanyl is the ‘nuclear weapon of drugs’

Dec 8, 2023, 2:44 PM

inslee fentanyl...

Gov. Jay inslee attended a celebration of the opening of the new Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health Hospital in Tukwila on Nov. 21. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Jay Inslee's photostream on Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Gov. Jay Inslee's photostream on Flickr)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to use more than $80 million in funding from the 2023-25 biennium budget to create and launch four new treatment centers — two to open as soon as possible with two more to open within the next four years — to curb the state’s rising rates of overdose deaths.

Inslee met with fentanyl crisis experts earlier this week in Everett, sharing his plan to reduce overdose deaths in the state.

“It’s as fast as we can go,” Inslee told The Gee and Ursula Show in regard to the four-year timeline. “And it’s going to be based on getting this appropriation. We have to have the personnel to staff these things, that’s always somewhat of a limitation. But I think it’d be a good step forward. We need it. We’re losing over 1,000 people to fentanyl. It is the nuclear weapon of drugs. We have to step up to the plate.”

In his plea for legislators to join him on this plan, Inslee stated this investment would be smart for the state, and that medically-assisted treatment works for those unhoused and struggling with addiction.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) found that patients under medically-assisted treatment reported using less heroin, opioids and alcohol use, while also reporting improved health, less frequency of disability and fewer symptoms, pain, worry, anxiety and depression after treatment. In its study of medication for opioid use disorder, the NLM found decreased substance use, improved physical and mental health, and reduced symptoms after six months of treatment.

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“How many more treatment centers do you think the state of Washington needs?” Gee Scott, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, asked Inslee.

“I don’t have a number on that, but the singular ones we have are the ones that we can accommodate to actually staff them,” Inslee answered. “Just having an empty building doesn’t do any good. You have to have the treatment people who understand this problem that can help people get off these drugs. So we’ve scaled it to as fast as we can, given the personnel we have available. Now we have to train more personnel as well. And this is associated with our mental health crisis crisis.”

Staffing in the medical sector has been an increasingly difficult challenge in recent years. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts there will be a shortage of as many as 122,000 physicians by 2032. The report also found that the over-65 population will grow by 48% by 2032. Unfortunately, many working physicians will be nearing retirement age by 2032.

For those working in the industry, fatigue has set in due to staffing struggles. In 2022, 46% of health workers reported feeling burned out often or very often compared to 32% in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Creating a “clean energy economy” in Washington

Seattle is attempting to bring its downtown-based workers back to downtown from their remote locations in order to reignite the area’s economy. Despite representing approximately 4% of the city’s total area, downtown accounts for nearly half of the city’s entire economic activity, including 55% of total jobs, more than 80% of office space, nearly 90% of all hotel rooms and roughly two-thirds of apartment units.

Over the summer, Amazon workers at the Seattle headquarters participated in a walkout in response to the company’s newly implemented return-to-office mandate and environmental policies. Former Amazon employee and current walkout organizer Eliza Pan claimed that Amazon’s carbon emissions have increased by 40% since its climate pledge was announced.

“How do you square those two competing things, which is should a city really be gearing toward climate change, or getting back to work and having a downtown economy that resembles something that it once was?” guest host Mike Lewis, who was in for Ursula Reutin, asked Inslee.

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“When you have an electric car, you’re cutting your emissions 80 or 90% and you don’t have to make (those) kind of decisions. That kind of choice that you’re making once you’re free of that carbon, fossil-fuel-based system, and that’s what we’re doing so brilliantly in Washington. The work that’s going on across our state, to give us planes that can fly on hydrogen, and battery companies I met with in Moses Lake, which really now is the center of the universe, working on high-tech batteries using silicon anodes that can increase the capacity of your car by 20-50% as far as range.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology announced in 2022 that all new light-duty cars and trucks sold in Washington must meet zero-emission vehicle standards by 2035.

“Washingtonians are embracing the transition from cars powered by fossil fuels – there are already more than 100,000 electric vehicles on our roads,” Laura Watson, the director of the Department of Ecology, said in a 2022 prepared statement. “We’ve seen a significant number of new, zero-emission vehicles come on the market in recent years, and we are confident that the technology, production capacity, and charging infrastructure needed to make this shift will be there.”

To help this transition, both the state and the federal government are offering incentives for drivers who switch to electric and other zero-emission vehicles.

New zero-emission vehicles purchased in Washington for up to $45,000 and used zero-emission vehicles purchased for up to $30,000 are at least partially exempt from state sales taxes — sometimes fully, depending on certain benchmarks.

“If you drive an electric car, or you ride an electric bus, which are now manufactured in Ferndale, and your kids ride an electric bus, which they can now ride buses for free because of the Climate Commitment Act, you’ve got a pretty low carbon footprint if you’re doing those things,” Inslee said Friday.

Washington’s carbon credit system a success?

As of September, energy companies have paid Washington nearly $1.5 billion for carbon credits in the state’s newly adopted plan to sell “vouchers” for the right to pump carbon into the atmosphere. The idea is to decrease the amount of carbon vouchers for sale each year, but drivers are feeling that pain at the gas pump as prices have skyrocketed this year.

“What are taxpayers getting for that?” Gee asked over the state’s $1.5 billion profit. “Where’s all that money going?”

“Several things. No. 1, cleaner air,” Inslee answered. “We have an epidemic of asthma. We have kids who can’t go out and play in August because of the forest fire smoke. We get what we do well in Washington, which is to fight pollution and they get less pollution because of this law. Fundamentally, what it does is it limits pollution. It has a cap on the amount of pollution that polluters will put into the atmosphere.

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“No. 2, they get huge investments to help people get cleaner, more reliable and less expensive energy in a variety of ways,” Inslee continued. “They get free bus rides for the kids. We get heat pumps for people. We get some utility relief for folks. We get some new businesses to create jobs across the state of Washington. We get new insulation for our homes. $1.5 billion going right back to Washingtonians to help them in so many different ways.”

The cap-and-invest program, a component of Washington’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) passed by the legislature in 2021, has an over-arching goal to get to 45% below 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 2030, 70% by 2040 and 95% below and net zero by 2050.

Plenty of critics, including the Washington Policy Center, have disagreed with this plan’s effectiveness, citing that the new climate policies would add around 46 cents to the price of a gallon of gas for residents on average.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.-noon on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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