Seattle Fire Department responding to historic number of overdose calls

SEATTLE — The Seattle Fire Department has responded to a historic number of overdose calls in recent memory.

The department said it has responded to more than 5,200 overdose calls in the last 12 months. It also shared links to the health department and resources to help people beat addiction.

Public Health — Seattle and King County shared this statement on the alarming numbers:

Since 2019, the number of overdose deaths in King County has grown exponentially, jumping by over 40% between 2021 and 2022. The pervasiveness of inexpensive and dangerous fentanyl has led to a rise in fatal overdoses across all sectors of society in King County and across America

The underlying root causes that have resulted in the current overdose crisis are, unfortunately, not ones that will be reversed overnight. Structural factors, including lack of economic opportunities, social isolation, structural racism, criminalization of substance use disorders, housing stability, and stigma, are just some of the factors that will require long-term, systematic changes and resources at all levels, from federal to state to local.

—  Sharon Bogan, Communications Specialist

The news of the historic number of overdoses has drawn a lot of concern from many people.

“It’s a situation that seems hopeless, and that is not a good way to feel,” said a woman named Angela.

Kristen Neil has worked in downtown Seattle for over 20 years and said she believes the problem of people overdosing has worsened.

“It’s flooded on the streets. It’s all you see every day when you walk up the street,” Neil said.

Neil has also had to make calls to 911 because of people passed out in front of her work.

“Like walking out the door and having to call and watching somebody do chest compressions on someone else. You know, it’s kind of hard,” Neil said.

Though the rise in overdoses is alarming, there are resources throughout the Emerald City to help people.

Besides the health department, Peer Seattle, an LGBTQ support group, also helps those struggling with addiction and on the road to recovery.

Christopher Archiopoli with the group says while he isn’t shocked about the number of calls Seattle Fire responded to, he believes people should always have Narcan on hand to help out during a crisis.

“I think that Narcan is a medicine, and it should be treated that way. It’s to help people get through something,” Archiopoli said. “Helping people to understand that if someone is experiencing substance use disorder, someone living with addiction that they are still human.”

Recovering addicts at Peer Seattle tell KIRO 7 they’ve even had to administer Narcan to those overdosing on the streets recently.

“So I walked over as another man was on the phone with the paramedics at the same time. So, we worked together to resuscitate this man,” said one woman.

They also believe groups like this are vital in helping people.

“But without these drugs and community outreach, I couldn’t have the life I have today or the future that I have today,” a woman told KIRO 7.

Besides medicine and organizations set to help, many believe it will take a community effort to put a potential end to the opioid epidemic.

“They deserve our compassion. They deserve our love, and they deserve to be accepted in our society,” Archiopoli said.

“So, if we kind of start with one, we can also see what else we need to do in the long run,” Neil said.

“But money doesn’t solve the crisis within one’s soul,” Angela said.