Sen. Maria Cantwell visits Vancouver for roundtable discussion on fentanyl crisis
VANCOUVER Wash. (KPTV) - Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell visited Vancouver on Monday to hear from locals about the dangers of fentanyl in the area and potential steps forward.
The discussion in the Clark County Public Service Center was one of six stops on Cantwell’s tour in the state, to hear from those on the front lines about what needs to be done.
Doctors, law enforcement officers, and fentanyl addiction survivors themselves gathered together to share their perspectives on the fentanyl crisis.
Survivor Niles Haas shared about a life he never imagined, getting addicted to fentanyl to escape the pain of childhood trauma and losing everything.
“It just spiraled out of control so quickly, weeks went by and all of a sudden my life was ruined,” he said. “Me getting locked up and me getting in trouble was what started things getting better for me because I realized I didn’t want to do this anymore.”
Fellow survivor Aaron Lopez also shared about his time in the local XChange Recovery program and turning his life around.
“I would do anything it took to get some more drugs,” Lopez said. “I started pan handling, and when that didn’t work, I started going in to stores and stealing…it was a special kind of hell, that’s the only way I can describe it.”
In Clark County, fentanyl-caused deaths have increased by more than 500% in the past few years, with 11 deaths in 2018 and 67 in 2022.
The CDC has estimated that Washington experienced the largest increased in drug overdose deaths between last year and this year.
“These are heartbreaking stories, and we’ve heard them from all over our state,” Cantwell said. “The fact that people can get so easily addicted to something that is so cheap and moving through the community…we definitely want to attack how this is being distributed but also get people help and try to prevent its usage.”
Local law enforcement officers at the round table also pointed out that more staffing is needed in order to investigate the trafficking of fentanyl on the local level.
Cantwell said her top priority after the tour is getting the FEND Act passed through the House of Representatives, after it recently passed in the Senate.
That act, co-sponsored by Cantwell, would help government agencies crack down on opioid supply chains and declare international fentanyl trafficking a national emergency.
Sen. Cantwell has already hosted roundtables in Pierce County, Snohomish County, Tri-Cities, Seattle, and Spokane.
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