Sen. Murray holds roundtable to discuss opioid epidemic in Washington

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021 — a new record.

On Friday, Washington Senator Patty Murray held a roundtable to discuss the challenges our state has had in controlling drug overdoses and the opioid crisis.

Murray said that deaths linked to the drug fentanyl doubled in our state in 2021. At Friday’s roundtable, she met with workers on the front lines of the fight against fentanyl in Seattle, who say they need better access to tools that would help those struggling with addiction.

“What we’re hearing from providers is that methadone really needs to be available for fentanyl use as well, and it’s far too restrictive to get,” said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, research scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

“Having access to nasal Narcan that’s affordable — that would be incredible,” said Elizabeth Dahl, executive director of the Aurora Commons.

According to the state’s department of health, the opioid epidemic has killed close to 11,000 Washingtonians since 2006.

Overdose deaths in our state topped 2,000 in 2021, a more than 66% jump compared to 2019.

On Friday, Seattle’s fire chief, Harold Scoggins, said that the department responds to four overdoses a day, which equates to roughly 1,400 calls a year.

In March, Murray helped pass a government funding package worth more than $5 billion for addressing mental health and substance use disorders.

However, panelists at Friday’s roundtable say regular funding, rather than grants, is critical to maintaining programs that save lives.