The surge of fentanyl-related deaths in Seattle has risen so high that the county is running out of room to store the dead bodies.
King County has averaged more than one fatal fentanyl overdose death every day this month; 31 cases through January 22. Last year, over two-thirds of the fatal overdoses reported in the county came from fentanyl use. The 1,019 fatal overdoses constituted the highest number the county has ever recorded, KTTH noted.
“The Medical Examiner’s Office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb. Obviously, they have finite space in the coolers they use, and that space is now being exceeded on a regular basis,’” Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan admitted recently. He has also stated, “The biggest driver of these fatal overdoses involves fentanyl in white powder and in fake pills, which are flooding the streets.”
In 2021, the Washington Supreme Court overturned the felony drug possession law, ruling that outlawing possession of drugs for personal use was unconstitutional.
“Statewide prosecutors’ offices were pretty shocked,” Cami Lewis, senior deputy prosecuting attorney for the Kitsap County prosecutor’s office, recalled. “We had 40 years of precedent where the statute had been fine. … Law enforcement were relying on it, prosecutors were relying on it, courts were relying on it, and the Supreme Court relied on it. It was pretty shocking for them just to overturn it.”
“We have options for temporary morgue surge capacity when our census count gets high, including storing decedents on autopsy gurneys and partnerships with funeral homes,” a Public Health spokesperson told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. “We’re exploring longer-term options for adding more capacity.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration acknowledged that it had seized over 50 million fentanyl pills in 2022, as well as almost 11,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. “These fentanyl seizures represent more than 379 million deadly doses, the DEA stated, adding, “The DEA Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of ten now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.”
“Many fake pills are made to look like prescription opioids such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®),” the DEA warned. “Never trust your own eyes to determine if a pill is legitimate. The only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.”