Cantwell Hosts Roundtable on Fentanyl Crisis in Everett

Community leaders and people with lived fentanyl experience join Cantwell for press availability after roundtable discussion; Cantwell: “We have to meet it at the national level with a task force response”

EVERETT – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hosted a roundtable in Everett to discuss the region’s fentanyl crisis in a closed discussion. Sen. Cantwell was joined by first responders, local elected leaders, city officials, tribal leaders, health specialists, law enforcement, and members of the community who have been personally impacted by the issue.

Immediately following the roundtable, several roundtable participants and Sen. Cantwell addressed members of the media.

“I’ve been conducting the beginnings of a statewide tour listening to our communities across the state… so that we can have a more federal, coordinated response with local governments to fight this crisis. It is a crisis, and our nation needs to understand that,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We have to meet it at the national level with a task force response that helps the communities get the resources they need to fight it, and coordinate with [the Drug Enforcement Administration] and our local law enforcement to tackle this.”

“Fentanyl is a whole new beast, and we know we have to support each other on this,” said Snohomish County Executive David Somers. “I just recently lost my brother to fentanyl back in March. He was smart, funny, capable, a wonderful human being. We heard today from some of the most amazing people too that have lived experience that are articulate, intelligent, smart, capable, and we’re going to really look to them to help us figure out how to attack this problem.”

“I started this organization when I was two years into my own recovery, and one of the things that we started with was bringing awareness to these issues. We are now blatantly aware of these issues. So now we focus on our other parts of our mission, which is to restore hope in the community and help love people back to life,” said Lindsey Arrington, founder of HOPE Soldiers. “I feel like some of the main priorities here are access to treatment – removing barriers to access to treatment – and mandating treatment for those who are unable to make the choice for themselves.”

“When someone is ready, getting them the help that they need immediately, not a week or a month later, but immediately, because a day or a month could be too late. I think people need time. Fentanyl is a whole new monster,” said Taylor Madison, a woman from Snohomish County who’s now 18 months sober. “I personally did six months of long-term inpatient … it took time, and it took work, and it took support – a lot of support. I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself.”

“People are dying. People aren’t just overdosing, but people are dying,” said Kalei Kaneaiakala, Recovery Coach at Everett Recovery Café. “I think that we can really make a difference if we work together.”

“My son died of an accidental overdose at college in 2015, right before the holidays,” said Cathi Lee, a local mother and a founder of International Overdose Awareness Day. “We did not fit the profile of an addicted son. We were a two parent family, we had income, we were well known in the community, volunteers – we did not fit the profile. We are trying to dispel [the belief that this isn’t] an everybody problem.”

Preliminary data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that the State of Washington experienced the second highest increase among U.S. states in reported drug overdose deaths from 2021 to 2022, an increase of 21.4%.  Nationwide, drug overdose deaths are projected to reach 109,680.

In Snohomish County:

  1. More than 860 people have died of overdoses since the start of 2020, and 658 of those overdoses were opioid-related;
  2. Fentanyl was involved in more than 80% of opioid-related deaths in 2022, compared to 23% in 2017;
  3. On average, one person dies in Snohomish County from a fentanyl overdose per day, and;
  4. This year, in the City of Everett alone, there have been 95 overdose deaths, a 493% increase year-over-year.
  5. The number of fatalities from overdoes does not capture the total number of overdoses.  For example, Sen. Cantwell heard in the roundtable about how one social worker embedded with police helped respond to seven overdoses in a single shift – one resulted in a fatality.

Sen. Cantwell also hosted a fentanyl crisis roundtable discussion in Pierce County last week.

Video of the media availability can be viewed HERE; audio HERE; photos HERE; and a transcript HERE.