Newsletter: Drug Crisis – Record overdose deaths and Inslee’s broken promise

Friends and neighbors,

I don’t think that any of us are blind to Washington’s drug epidemic. Many of us have loved ones who have struggled with, or succumbed to, addiction. Police and other emergency responders are overwhelmed with calls to assist in overdoses, including overdose deaths.

Mental illness is often at the core of serious substance abuse. Treatment programs that don’t address the mental health component have a lower success rate and the result is that people are literally dying in the street.

Permissive drug policies pushed by the Democrat majority failed and many communities across Washington demanded the Legislature respond. Last year, we passed Senate Bill 5536, which is often referred to as “The Blake Fix” in reference to a court case that effectively threw out Washington’s policies on hard drugs.

That law took effect July 1, 2023. 

According to the new law, “It is a gross misdemeanor to:

  1. Knowingly possess counterfeit substances and controlled substances (hereafter “prohibited substances”); or
  2. Knowingly use prohibited substances in a public place.

This bill covers possession and use of counterfeit or controlled substances, or “hard” drugs such as fentanyl and other opioids, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. Also prohibited is the knowing possession of non-prescribed legend drugs, as well as their knowing use in a public place, both classified as misdemeanors. The bill also creates a pre-trial diversion program and almost completely preempts local regulation of drug paraphernalia.” (Excerpt from Municipal Research and Services Center)

One of the other pieces to the puzzle of addressing this issue is funding behavioral-health treatment facilities. Read below to learn more about what has happened in the case of a treatment center planned for Lewis County.

This issue is very important to me and I will continue to work toward finding solutions. If you have any questions or feedback, you can contact me.


Broken Inslee promise stalls behavioral-health treatment facility

Efforts to build a behavioral-health treatment facility in Lewis County are being pushed back another six months by what Lewis County lawmakers say is another broken promise from Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration.

Sen. John Braun and Rep. Peter Abbarno, both R-Centralia, are particularly frustrated because the governor’s office assured them an important cost-saving change in the state building code would be made on time, without need for the legislation the two lawmakers proposed in January. Instead, the regulatory move got caught up in the governor’s effort to ban the use of natural gas to heat buildings.

Read the entire news release.


Washington’s drug crisis

Overdose deaths at record levels

Compared to this time last year in King County:

  • Overdose deaths are up 45%,
  • Fentanyl deaths are up 71%, and
  • Emergency calls for drug overdoses are up 55%, but they are up 130% from two years ago.

King County emergency services treated 6,300 overdoses last year, which is an average of 23 per night. Our EMS workers are nothing short of heroic in their efforts.

While these statistics are for King County, counties around the state are seeing similar growth.


This graph shows the growth of all overdose deaths.


This graph shows the growth of overdose deaths due to fentanyl alone.