Opioid crisis in FW
The opioid epidemic has been a major problem in the United States for decades. When it seemed better controlled, the coronavirus pandemic struck and opioid use skyrocketed. We hit a record number of overdose deaths in 2020, and the climb continues. The primary culprit is synthetic fentanyl. This fentanyl is being illegally manufactured in other countries and sold by drug dealers in our communities.
Drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamines affect more than the people who use them. Unfortunately, as we saw with the Red Lion, drug contamination can spread throughout an entire building and takes considerable time and money to clean up. So what was supposed to be a homeless shelter ready for December’s cold snap is a building still in limbo during a significant decontamination process.
Our homeless population is at increased risk of overdosing. King County reached a record of 310 homeless deaths in 2022, a 65 percent increase from 2021. According to the medical examiner’s office, fentanyl was involved in over half of those deaths. On a broader scope, 70 percent of all overdose deaths in the county were fentanyl related in 2022. We must get programs and resources to help our community members. Fentanyl is rampant in Washington, and Federal Way has seen more than its fair share of opioid overdose deaths.
With rising drug use comes rising crime. Public safety has gone by the wayside as drugs are decriminalized and our law enforcement is sidelined. Vehicle thefts increased by 88% between 2021 and 2022, and criminals have been emboldened. Violent crimes are increasing in our cities as well. Our residents are fed up and afraid.
We have an opportunity to make the changes we need right now. First, Washington needs to opt-in to the $26 billion settlement, so we can get resources to our first responders and set up programs to help our residents struggling with opioid addiction. The longer we wait, the more this will spread and the more lives we lose. Second, the Legislature must take action that allows law enforcement in Federal Way and across the state to do its job by enacting enforceable drug laws that hold offenders accountable and encourages them to receive treatment. The Legislature must also correct the flawed pursuit law that places undue restrictions on law enforcement.
Federal Way and other cities must once again be given the power to determine our destiny.
Note: Walsh is a member of the Federal Way City Council as well as a local business owner.