King County Council votes to declare fentanyl a public health crisis amid overdose surge

So far in 2022, King County is on track to set yet another new overdose record.

File photo.

On July 19, the King County Council approved legislation to declare fentanyl a public health crisis in King County.

The proposal comes amid continuing sharp increases in the number of people dying from fentanyl overdoses. The number of people in King County who died from a fentanyl overdose more than doubled in King County last year alone, according to the King County Medical Examiner Office’s Fatal Overdose Dashboard.

So far in 2022, King County is on track to set yet another new record — roughly 264 people have died from fentanyl, over a 46 percent increase compared to this time last year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration describes fentanyl as a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Many users are unaware that they are ingesting fentanyl, which are often disguised to look like legitimate prescription pain relievers or added to heroin without the user’s knowledge. Because of its high potency, fentanyl is deadly in very small doses.

“Today we declared fentanyl a public health crisis to sound the alarm that fentanyl is lethal, prevalent on our streets, and tragically claiming the lives of far too many people — children, parents, brothers, and sisters — here in King County,” Councilmember and co-sponsor of the legislation Reagan Dunn said. “With today’s action, we forge a path to fight harder against the deadly substance and stop so many from dying of fatal overdoses. My heart continues to go out to each and every person who has lost a loved one to fentanyl”

In addition to declaring the public health crisis, the motion tasks King County with identifying strategies and recommendations to amplify its efforts to reduce fentanyl-related deaths. This work would be performed by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“Fentanyl has claimed far too many lives, especially those who didn’t even know that’s what they were taking and those who were taking it legally through prescriptions,” said council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles said. “When she was in her late 80s, my mother became addicted to fentanyl through following her prescription, but fortunately we caught it in time. And a very young nephew of my husband overdosed on it and died. It hits all social and economic sectors.”

Kohl-Welles said in addition to raising important awareness, this legislation will ensure that Public Health – Seattle & King County is working to reduce the harm associated with fentanyl, educating folks about the risks, and keeping more people in King County alive.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Jail bars. File photo
Renton man convicted in 2018 Des Moines homicide

Jurors found 28-year-old Yourhighness Jeramiah Bolar of Renton guilty of two felony charges.

One of two victims identified in fiery Kent crash

Kristen Anne Meyers, 53, died in May 11 crash on West Hill, according to medical examiner

City-owned ShoWare Center in Kent loses $742,675 in 2023

Losses lower than projected but expenses continue to exceed revenue at 6,200-seat arena

Kent firefighters extinguish two fires on the same morning | Photos

Friday, May 17 at apartment leasing office in the Valley and at a vacant East Hill house

Courtesy Photo, City of Kent
City of Kent population drops by 1,051 in 2023 compared to 2022

Decline similar to many cities of 50,000 or more across the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau

Kent Police Blotter: April 25 to May 8

Incidents include burglaries, robberies, shootings

Rape charges dismissed against former Kent school bus driver

Prosecutors decide they could not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt due to medical tests

Feds indict 9 South King County residents on drug trafficking charges

Those accused from Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Enumclaw

A screenshot of King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn speaking about a proposed amendment for the proposed $20 minimum wage ordinance. (Screenshot)
King County approves $20.29 minimum wage for unincorporated areas

Councilmember Reagan Dunn and more than a dozen business owners argued tips and health care expenses should be a part of the new wage. The council passed the ordinance without the amendment.

Dave Upthegrove. COURTESY PHOTO
Upthegrove one of seven candidates for state lands commissioner

His King County Council member’s district includes part of Kent

COURTESY PHOTO, King County Elections
Candidates file for Kent-area races for Congress, Legislature

Incumbents face challengers in two Congressional contests and four state House races

Two die in single-car crash in Kent on West Hill

Sedan crashed Saturday evening, May 11 into tree and caught fire in 2400 block of South 272nd Street