You are here
Home > News > Fentanyl Crisis Behind Record Homeless Death Toll in Seattle

Fentanyl Crisis Behind Record Homeless Death Toll in Seattle

Seattle is seeing a rise in the number of homeless people who die every day due to overdoses and sudden death.

Seattle TimesAccording to records from the medical examiner, there were 310 homeless people in Seattle, King County and Washington between 2022 and 22. More than half, 160, of these deaths are due to fentanyl poisoning.

Fentanyl-related death was more than just accidents, natural deaths and suicides.

It represents an increase of more than 100 people over the record for 2018 (195 deaths), which was set in 2018. These shocking figures are alarming for public health professionals in the region. REACH in Seattle is an organization dedicated to fighting homelessness. It provides food, medical care, and tools for drug abuse.

“That’s just appalling,” Chloe Gale, policy and strategy vice president for REACH, told Seattle Times. A County estimate last year showed that 13.368 residents were homeless.

In December 2020, 29 people died due to lack of housing. This was a new record. In 2021, 188 people experiencing homelessness died. 

Usually, it isn’t the cold that kills people who are living in homeless conditions. Examiners frequently found a combination of fentanyl and other drugs in the system of people who have overdoses, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

For public health officers, the end is not in sight. “Maybe we’re plateauing at a really bad rate and maybe it’s going to get worse,” said Brad Finegood, who heads an opioid and overdose response for Public Health, “I don’t know when it’s going to stop.” 

Bruce Harrell of Seattle said that, despite rising overdoses in Seattle, his administration will push to get people in the house, in partnership with King County Regional Homelessness Authority. 

King County officials said they have recently directed Public Health – Seattle & King County to work with the county’s Department of Community and Human Services and the King County Regional Homeless Authority to help homeless service providers learn more about what’s working and what’s not working to lower the risk of fatal overdoses among people living in homeless conditions.

Last year, Public Health – Seattle & King County distributed over 10,000 naloxone kits, and about 100,000 fentanyl test strips in an effort to reduce deaths. Public awareness campaigns are being promoted by the agency to encourage similar public awareness efforts for people who experience homelessness.

Homeless Drug Addiction Recovery Efforts

Over the years, there have been many ways for cannabis to be creative in combating drug addiction.

Clark County Commissioners, Nevada approved a 2019 resolution that allocated nearly $1.8million from the local marijuana industry to help subsidise programs for homeless people. A little more than $930,000 of the earmarked money was provided to HELP of Southern Nevada’s rehousing services.

Ventura County cannabis dispensaries donated 100 beds to a California shelter for the homeless. Five licensed dispensaries contributed: Emerald Perspective, Hueneme Patient Collective SafePort, Tradecraft Ventures and SkunkMasters. They donated $17.500 of the $25,000 raised. 

San Francisco’s healthcare professionals administered a limited amount of cannabis and alcohol in 2020 to those experiencing homelessness or addiction.

San Francisco Department of Health stated that this prevents COVID spread by keeping addicts isolated.