WASHINGTON — The overdose calls seem to never stop for emergency responders in Washington.
In King County, there have been an average of 21 calls a day for opioid overdoses so far in 2023. In 2022, that average was 12, and in 2021 there were an average of 8 overdose calls each day, according to Department of Health data.
“In the last two years, overdoses have more than doubled. It’s just been a real spike," said Dr. Michael Sayre, the medical director of the Seattle Fire Department.
Many first responders are going to opioid overdose calls multiple times during a shift.
“I think many first responders can see themselves or one of their family members in these patients, and it’s just been really hard,” Sayre said.
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The most challenging calls for first responders involve children. Earlier this year, first responders in Whatcom County raced to the home of a mother who reported her daughter had died.
Investigators allege the child had died from a fentanyl overdose, and three adults have been charged with murder.
Police in Bellingham found a 15-year-old girl dead from a suspected overdose inside a tent at a homeless encampment earlier this year
“I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to come into an encampment that looks like this and pull a 15 year old dead out of a tent," said Lt. Claudia Murphy of the Bellingham police. “Of course people need treatment, but until we have that infrastructure in place, we have nothing. That’s what our officers are struggling with.”
According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), 11 children died from synthetic opioid drug overdoses in 2019. In just four years, that number jumped to 31 children dying in 2022. Most of those deaths were from fentanyl, with King, Snohomish and Pierce counties seeing the highest numbers out of the entire state.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram called fentanyl the "single deadliest drug threat" the U.S. has ever seen.
"Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day," Milgram said.