An awake Seattle health official is ignoring the potential health problems of secondhand fentanyl smoke by encouraging addicts to use in public in case they overdose.
“I honestly had never heard of smoking fentanyl on the bus when I was hired by Metro,” Seattle’s Metro bus driver Stevon Williams told me. KOMO News. “I don’t want to be in a predicament where I deal with drugs every day at work – I didn’t sign up for that.”
Williams said in the interview that he is now on medical leave while being tested for possible exposure to secondhand fentanyl.
The same report quotes Seattle & King County Public Health social worker Thea Oliphant-Wells from a 2022 district report on substance abuse.
“We don’t want people to use only in private areas, we want people to use in a place where if they overdose, they can be discovered and helped by that overdose,” she said. The KOMO report notes that Oliphant-Wells declined an interview about Williams’ allegations that smoking was rampant on city buses.
Seattle Metro bus driver Stevon Williams is on medical leave due to exposure to fentanyl after complaining about drug users smoking the substance on his bus
Seattle and King County Public Health social worker Thea Oliphant-Wells said in a 2022 report that society should encourage addicts to use drugs in public
“I just know that when we’re sick, we need to be monitored and listened to,” Williams said.
He continues that he regularly sees drug users smoking on the bus while sitting next to mothers with young children.
Despite this, “It’s the drug users, they’re being looked after first and foremost,” Williams added.
Oliphant-Wells, a recovering heroin addict, is quoted from the 2022 report: “It’s important to note that when you see fentanyl reporting, you really look critically, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
In early 2023, King County Medical Examiner’s Office officials said the department was struggling to keep up with the number of incoming bodies as the fentanyl crisis continues and worsens.
“An important indicator of how bad things are at the end of 2022 and likely to get worse [in] In 2023, the medical examiner’s office is now grappling with the issue of storing bodies as the fentanyl-related death toll continues to rise,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Seattle-King County public health director, recently.
Officials said they are exploring temporary options to counter the limited amount of space available in the morgues.
“We have options for temporary morgue capacity increases when our census count gets high, including storing the deceased on autopsy stretchers and partnerships with funeral homes,” a public health spokesperson told me. KTHH.
“We are exploring longer-term options to add more capacity,” they continued.
In 2022, 310 homeless people died, the vast majority from a drug overdose
Clinging to a needle, a man walks the streets of Seattle completely bent over
A man is seen collapsed on the ground in Seattle, Washington, where the assistance given to people found in possession of drugs is not properly tracked
In January, officials in Washington state made the terrifying announcement that they are running out of space in morgues and crematoriums as the drug rips through local communities
A man stares at the aluminum foil in which his fentanyl is burned, before inhaling the smoke through the rollup in his mouth
Khan said he believes many of the recent deaths have been caused by the discreet inclusion of fentanyl in drugs that look like prescription pills. He also said the drug may look like cocaine or heroin.
“People don’t realize they’re on fentanyl,” Khan said.
He also added that fentanyl is the “biggest driver” of the overdoses and that the drug is found in “white powder and in fake pills, flooding the streets.”
In 2022, a record 310 homeless people died in the Seattle area last year, highlighting the region’s struggle to house the thousands of people living on the streets.
King County’s 310 deaths surpassed the previous record of 195 homeless deaths in 2018, marking a 65 percent increase from 2021.
“That’s just awful,” the newspaper quoted Chloe Gale, vice president of policy and strategy for REACH, Seattle’s largest homelessness provider.
How Addictive Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, one of the most widely used painkillers in the world.
Only a small dose of fentanyl is needed to cause an overdose. Just two milligrams — the equivalent of five grains of salt — is enough to cause death.
Because it is incorporated into other popular medications, many people who die from overdoses do not know they are taking fentanyl.
Fentanyl is partly responsible for the sharp drop in life expectancy in America over the past three years.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said it underlines his administration’s urgent need to get more people inside.
Fentanyl-related overdoses accounted for more than half of the deaths. Many people had a combination of fentanyl and other drugs such as meth or cocaine in their system, the paper reported, citing data from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Eighteen homeless people died from homicide, a number that has more than doubled since 2021.
Thirty-five people died of natural causes at a much younger than normal age. The average age at which homeless people die was 48, the coroner found.
Ten people died from hypothermia or exposure, and seven died from suicide.
The county has instructed its public health, human services and homelessness offices to survey homeless providers to find out what it takes to curb fatal overdoses. The province is also increasing funds for damage control efforts.
Last year, Public Health – Seattle & King County distributed more than 10,000 kits of naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, and about 100,000 fentanyl test strips.
The agency leads awareness campaigns about the synthetic opioid and helps people find treatment.
Fentanyl causes more overdose fatalities in the county regardless of people’s residential status.
As of November, it was implicated in 70% of all confirmed overdose deaths in the county by 2022, according to a recent report from Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Brad Finegood, who leads the agency’s opioid and overdose response, said researchers are watching monthly overdose numbers, hoping rates level off.
“Maybe we’re stagnating at a really bad pace and maybe it’s going to get worse,” Finegood said. “I don’t know when it will stop.”
The point-in-time census conducted in the county last year showed 13,368 people living outside.