Cantwell Convenes Fentanyl Roundtable in Vancouver

State of WA experienced biggest increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S.; 67 deaths in Clark Co. involved fentanyl in 2022, a 500% increase from 2018

VANCOUVER, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) heard from first responders, health care providers, law enforcement, and members of the community who have been personally impacted by fentanyl during a roundtable discussion in Vancouver at the Clark County Public Service Center.

Today’s discussion marked Sen. Cantwell’s sixth 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.

“Last year, law enforcement seized over 1.5 million pills laced with fentanyl in our state. This year, they've already seized 1.6 million fentanyl pills -- and it's just August,” said Sen. Cantwell. “So you can see that this is a supply being brought into our state … and we need new tools to fight back. That is why I'm having a listening tour around the State of Washington to hear from individuals connected to challenges that we are trying to face.”

In 2022, 67 people died from fentanyl-related overdoses in Clark County, more than a 500% increase from fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Clark County in 2018. 

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Washington state, outnumbering deaths from vehicle collisions and firearms. 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 between February 2022 and February 2023, an increase of 21.42%.

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 law “will give us better tools in fighting the cartels and fighting the money laundering […] supplying the money behind fentanyl distribution,” said Sen. Cantwell. “By being able to name specific cartels and certain individuals, we can go after their assets and we can go after the banking.”

According to the CDC, 105,258 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in February 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 Clark County Commissioner Sue Marshall; Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle; representatives from Clark County Public Health, Clark County District Court, Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health, Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, Clark County Sheriff, Vancouver Police, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Fort Vancouver High School, PeaceHealth Hospital, Columbia River Mental Health Services, and Lifeline Connections Medication Assisted Recovery; and people with lived experience of fentanyl addiction.

Photos from today’s event are available HERE, video HERE, and a transcript of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE.