UNITED STATES NEWS

As Pacific Northwest fentanyl crisis surges, officials grapple with how to curb it

Dec 13, 2023, 1:24 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — The fight against fentanyl is increasingly being waged in schools, jails and on city streets in the Pacific Northwest, where state officials in Oregon and Washington have named it a top issue as overdose deaths rise.

Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee plans to ask lawmakers for about $64 million more to treat and prevent opioid use. In Oregon, Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek has proposed declaring a fentanyl emergency in Portland, and lawmakers have created a committee on addiction to get a jump on the issue before the Legislature reconvenes in February.

“One pill can now take your life. Fentanyl is the nuclear weapon of drugs and we’ve got to up our game against this scourge,” Inslee said during a press conference on Wednesday.

A surge in fentanyl deaths, including among children, has marked the latest iteration of the years-long opioid crisis. The most recent provisional figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 78,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in the 12 months ending June 2023, accounting for 92% of all opioid overdose deaths during that period.

One way Oregon and Washington want to reduce fatalities is by more widely distributing opioid overdose reversal medications such as naloxone. Naloxone is most commonly administered as a nasal spray or an injection and helps restore breathing.

Inslee’s office said part of his proposed supplemental budget would go toward equipping first responders with naloxone, and setting up 20 “smart” machines that dispense naloxone and other health supplies in areas of the state with high rates of opioid overdoses.

Oregon’s state health department said it plans to offer free opioid overdose reversal kits to middle and high schools. A bill that has been filed ahead of Washington’s short legislative session, which starts in January, would require all school districts to make such medication available in its high schools. Current law only requires districts with at least 2,000 students to do so.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives in Washington have been especially affected, dying from opioid overdoses at four times the state average, according to the proposed budget. Inslee wants some funds to go to a campaign to spread awareness in tribes about opioids, including how to find treatment and use naloxone.

Another key goal is expanding access to treatment, including in jails. The majority of inmates meet the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, studies have found, and they are more likely to die in their first weeks after release. Overdose is a leading cause of death for people newly released, partly because their tolerance decreases when they’re not using behind bars.

The federal government is planning to allow states to use money from Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, to pay for medications that help curb opioid use in state jails and prisons. The plan represents a major shift for the program; when launched in 1965, it banned using the funds to help incarcerated people.

Until the federal Medicaid dollars become available, Inslee wants to equip all city, county and tribal jails across the state with medications for opioid use disorder, increasing the number from the 19 locations currently providing it.

His state’s opioid response plan also seeks to expand treatment by allowing jails to start administering medication that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms to people who weren’t taking it before incarceration. Only 19% of U.S. jails initiate such treatment for people without prior prescriptions, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found in analyzing data from 2019.

According to the same report, only 24% of jails continue to provide medication to curb withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings to people who had prescriptions before incarceration.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for treating opioid dependence: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone.

Authorities also want to curb public drug use, which has become more visible in major cities such as Portland and Seattle due to growing homelessness.

Kotek, Oregon’s governor, this week released a proposal that calls for the state, Multnomah County and the city of Portland each to declare a 90-day fentanyl emergency and establish a command center to improve coordination between law enforcement, outreach workers and service providers. She has also urged providers to expand their hours.

When the Legislature convenes for its short session in February, Kotek also wants lawmakers to consider outlawing public drug use.

Banning public use has been a major talking point among Portland officials and lawmakers in recent months. Portland City Council approved such a ban in September, but it’s contingent on state law changing.

Law enforcement officials have advocated for such a measure, saying a 2020 ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of small drug amounts has made it difficult to stop public use.

“Confronting our most pressing challenges requires the hope and fortitude of an entire community,” Kotek said.

___

Rush reported from Portland, Oregon.

United States News

Associated Press

Woman holding large knife at Denver intersection shot and killed by police, chief says

DENVER (AP) — Officers shot and killed a woman who was holding a large, hunting-style knife at an intersection in downtown Denver on Sunday, police said. Officers used a Taser on the woman twice but she began advancing toward them as they tried to back up from her, Denver police Chief Ron Thomas said a […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed when vintage plane crashes during Father’s Day event at Southern California airfield

CHINO, Calif. (AP) — Two people were killed aboard a vintage plane that crashed and burst into flames near a Southern California airfield during a weekend Father’s Day event hosted by an air museum, authorities said Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the twin-engine Lockheed 12A crashed shortly after 12:30 p.m. Saturday, just west of […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

2 people seriously injured after small plane crashes near interstate south of Denver

LARKSPUR, Colo. (AP) — Two people were hospitalized with serious injuries after their small plane crashed near Interstate 25 in Colorado on Sunday, officials said. The plane crashed in a field just off I-25 near Larkspur, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Denver, after it apparently hit a sign on the highway, causing it […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Kansas lawmaker’s law license suspended over conflicts of interest in murder case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican Kansas lawmaker who already dropped his re-election campaign last month after he was arrested in a traffic stop has now been barred from practicing law for at least a year for mishandling conflicts of interest in a murder case. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that state Rep. Carl Maughan […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Police identify Michigan splash pad shooter but there’s still no word on a motive

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Authorities on Sunday identified the man who opened fire at a splash pad in suburban Detroit before taking his own life, but his motives remained unknown as investigators worked to determine if he left behind any hint of his plans. Oakland County Sheriff’s spokesperson Stephen Huber said the shooter was […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

7 shot when gunfire erupts at a pop-up party in Massachusetts

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) — Seven people were shot and wounded, and an eighth was hurt while running away when gunfire erupted at a large gathering of young people in Methuen, Massachusetts, authorities said Sunday. The gunfire began just before 2 a.m. after hundreds of people gathered for a pop-up party organized on social media, officials […]

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

As Pacific Northwest fentanyl crisis surges, officials grapple with how to curb it