Opinion: A look at Washington’s fentanyl crisis

In her weekly column, Nancy Churchill discusses the failures that contributed to the crisis and also possible ways to fight the crisis

In her weekly column, Nancy Churchill discusses the failures that contributed to the crisis and also possible ways to fight the crisis

Nancy Churchill
Dangerous Rhetoric

Too many are dying from fentanyl. I recently attended a memorial service for a young fentanyl victim. Family, friends and the greater community were struggling to come to grips with the loss of such a bright and loving young mother who had so positively touched many lives. One guest told me he couldn’t stop thinking there were probably many similar ceremonies happening all over the country at the same moment. This tragic and senseless everyday carnage is the real public health crisis in America. 

Nancy Churchill
Nancy Churchill

The UW Addiction Drug Alcohol Institute’s “New and Emerging Cases Report for Q1 and Q2 of 2022″ offers a sobering analysis. The graphs on this report show the terrifying reality of the problem facing our communities. A separate syringe use survey showed “fentanyl use has skyrocketed to ‘stunning’ levels across the state in 2021.” “In Seattle alone, police seized an estimated 650,000 fentanyl pills last year, roughly 10 times what they seized in 2020.” 

King 5 News recently reported about the fentanyl crisis in King County. It noted “King County is on track to set another record in fentanyl deaths in 2022. The 249 deaths mark a 43 percent increase compared to this time last year.” 

State-level failures 

One failure is the Blake decision, in which the state Supreme Court overturned Washington’s felony possession law, for the lack of the word “knowingly”, and the Legislature’s failure to simply add that word into the law. And the passage of SB 5476 in 2021 immediately made drug possession for adults a non-offense for the first two arrests. Addicts no longer go to jail, which has traditionally been an opportunity to detox and consider treatment programs. This means users are more likely to die by overdose. That’s not compassionate. 

The Democratic leadership of the House also blocked any consideration of a bill put forward by Senator Jim Honeyford, (R-Sunnyside) which the state Senate unanimously approved. SB 5509 would have excluded fentanyl testing strips from the list of items banned under the law. The Democrats chose to withhold a tool that would save many lives. That’s also the opposite of compassionate. That’s deadly. 

Federal-level failures 

The fentanyl crisis is also aggravated by inaction at the federal level. Earlier this year, U.S. Congressional House Democrats blocked the passage of the Stop Fentanyl Act. According to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ testimony, a million years of life has been lost to fentanyl overdose. 

Now McMorris Rodgers is fighting for the passage of the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well Being Act (H.B. 7666) which would “keep the federal government out of decision-making for treatment and instead target resources to state and local communities through block grants. That provides these communities with greater flexibility to meet specific and unique needs.” This bill has passed the house, and is heading to the Senate. 

Action Items – You CAN make a difference 

Voting and funding conservative candidates is very important, but you don’t have to wait until the next election to take some important actions that will help save lives in the future. 

To impact the federal discussion, please write to both Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell and ask them to work for the passage of H.B. 7666 – The Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well Being Act. Remember that we have an opportunity to replace Murray on the ballot this year, so please support Tiffany Smiley, a conservative mother and nurse. 

To impact the state-level discussions, write the state board of health at wsboh@sboh.wa.gov. Ask them to push for a bill like the Honeyford bill (SB 5509) which would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. 

Progressive Washington state Democratic leaders led the effort to allow hard drugs onto our streets and hamstring enforcement. If you have friends or family in the Puget Sound region, let them know that their state Democratic legislators have made the state’s fentanyl crisis worse. They need to be replaced. Ask your friends to vote Republican in the coming primary and general election. 

Local and personal actions 

You can write your local board of health and ask members to also work to decriminalize fentanyl test strips. It’s important for regional health boards to advocate for common-sense solutions in our communities to the state board of health. 

You, yes YOU, can learn the symptoms of overdose. Get some Naloxone (a.k.a Narcan), and learn how to use it. “All pharmacies in Washington are able to provide naloxone to people directly, without a prescription.” 

You may be the one to save a life. You can find life-saving information on overdose and Naloxone at StopOverdose.org. If you or someone you care about is facing addiction or living with addiction, you can get help at your local 12- step programs which provide free support groups. AA.org and NA.org, AdultChildren.org, and Al-Anon.org are all life-saving and life-changing opportunities for healing. There is a path out of the disease of addiction. 

Washington’s fentanyl crisis needs our action and attention. There are lives to save. 

Nancy Churchill is the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at DangerousRhetoric@pm.me. The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.

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