Fentanyl-related overdose deaths hit all-time high in King County in 2023

King County saw a record number of fentanyl-related deaths in 2023. However, experts are hopeful new resources will bring much-needed change. 

Fentanyl continues to haunt Puget Sound. Public Health Seattle King County data shows there were 1,060 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2023. That is nearly a 50% increase from 2022.

The drug's deadly effects on the community have grown exponentially in a short period of time. The health department's data shows in 2015, there were three fentanyl-involved overdose deaths.

In July 2022, King County declared the drug a public health crisis.

"We know people are a lot more susceptible to overdose because it is a much more lethal opioid than we’ve seen in past years," said Brad Finegood, a strategic advisor for behavioral health with Public Health Seattle King County.

Data shows it's not just fentanyl-related overdoses that are increasing: deadly meth-involved overdoses are also spiking.

"Those overdose deaths that have stimulants and have opioids make up about almost 60% of our overall deaths," said Finegood.

The numbers seem bleak, but people on the front line remain hopeful.

"I don’t think it's losing a battle. I just think that it’s taking a while for all of this to come to the forefront," said Milli Militi-Jaigamian.

Militi-Jaigamian’s 20-year-old son, Giancarlo, died from a fentanyl overdose. Following her son’s tragic death, Militi-Jaigamian created a non-profit called the Fentanyl United Crisis Coalition.

For the last year, she has worked to save other families from dealing with the heartbreak she endured. She says the efforts are worth it.

"I’ve seen within just the year, the impact it’s having on people. I’ve had people come to me, and tell me, I’ve had young teenagers reach out to me, and tell me, they’re thanking me. They’re thanking me because their friends are dying, and it’s not ok with them," she said.

Finegoode said he is hopeful resources will have an impact on the deadly numbers.

"Seattle has really invested in a strategy that in the long-term will pay off. We have things like the crisis care centers that we’ll be standing up in this next year to two years from the levy that was passed," he said.

FOX 13 News reached out to several lawmakers to comment on this growing crisis.

United States Representative Primila Jayapal provided this statement:

"Fentanyl is fueling the opioid crisis in Seattle and across the country, and my heart breaks for those who have lost their lives and the families that mourn them. We can and must do more to both stop fentanyl from coming into our country and to support those who face addiction. That’s why I was proud to secure $5 million for the Thunderbird Treatment Center, a facility that will address addiction on Vashon Island, and have been a longtime advocate for supportive housing services. I’ve also been proud to help bring a successful diversion program from our state to Congress, where it received bipartisan support to ensure that people arrested for low level drug convictions get the help they need. However, as we enter 2024, Republicans are still holding up funding requested by the White House that would give the Department of Homeland Security more than a billion dollars to help address this crisis. I’ve been proud to vote for previous funding bills that ensure our ports of entry have the proper funding necessary to detect and stop the flow of this dangerous drug, and I hope my colleagues will put people over politics and stop holding funding hostage as we start this new year."

FOX 13 News also spoke with a representative for Senator Patty Murray. The spokesperson said the fentanyl crisis is one of Murray's top priorities, and she recently secured a $345 million increase in funding to address opioid abuse.