Cantwell Convenes Fentanyl Roundtable in Port Angeles

State of WA experienced biggest increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S.; 26 deaths in Clallam Co. involved fentanyl in 2022 Cantwell: “There's so many issues that are unique in the Peninsula.”

PORT ANGELES, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) heard from first responders, health care providers, law enforcement, and other members of the community on the front lines of the fentanyl crisis during a roundtable discussion in Port Angeles at Peninsula Behavioral Health.

Today’s discussion marked Sen. Cantwell’s seventh stop on an ongoing listening tour across Washington state to hear from people on the front lines of the fentanyl crisis. In May, Sen. Cantwell hosted a fentanyl crisis roundtable discussion in Pierce County followed by a second roundtable discussion in Snohomish County in June; last month, she convened a roundtable in the Tri-Cities, a roundtable in downtown Seattle and a roundtable in Spokane; and on Monday, she hosted a roundtable in Vancouver, WA.

“We definitely wanted to take the opportunity to be here, because there's so many issues that are unique in the Peninsula. To try to deal with these issues, sometimes it can feel like you're on your own, or at least far away from other additional resources,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We know that there have been 26 people who died in overdoses in 2022 in this county … there certainly could be on the Peninsula [some] unique ways in which people might be trafficking that product.”

Data released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the State of Washington experienced the single highest increase among U.S. states in reported drug overdose deaths from between March 2022 and March 2023, an increase of 25.39%.

Sen. Cantwell noted that recently-passed legislation, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, may be able to help reduce fentanyl trafficking. The Senate passed the bill in July as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The FEND Off Fentanyl act aims to “target the cartels and the money laundering, and the assets and resources behind the distribution,” said Sen. Cantwell.

Several participants at the roundtable also warned about the emergence of xylazine, also known as tranq, as a new dimension to the fentanyl crisis, an issue that attendees at prior roundtables have similarly raised.  In May, Sen. Cantwell led a Commerce Committee markup of S. 1280, the TRANQ Research Act, to help combat the rise in illicit use of xylazine. It directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to take steps to enhance understanding of xylazine or tranq and other novel synthetic drugs, develop new tests for detection, and establish partnerships with front-line entities that are often the first points of contact with new street drugs. Sen. Cantwell is a cosponsor of that bipartisan bill, and also cosponsored similar bipartisan language to amend a bill that subsequently passed the Senate by unanimous consent last month.

According to the CDC, 105,224 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in March 2023 – a figure that the CDC projects will increase with additional reporting – and a staggering 67% of overdose deaths in 2022 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. In June, researchers at the University of Washington reported that in 2022, fentanyl was involved in 90% of opioid overdoses in Washington state and 65% of all overdose deaths.

Roundtable participants included represent Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney/Ex-Officio Coroner Mark Nichols, Clallam County Sheriff Brian King, Port Angeles Fire Department Chief Derrell Sharp, and representatives from North Olympic Healthcare Network, Jamestown Healing Clinic, and the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET).

Video from today’s event is available HERE, audio HERE, photos HERE, and a transcript of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE. Video of remarks from other roundtable participants is available HERE.