Mayor Jenny Durkan Announces New Actions on Fentanyl Awareness

City of Seattle Will Fund 700 Naloxone Kits, Distribute Kits at 25 Naloxone Trainings Throughout Seattle for Community Members and Partner Organizations

SEATTLE (January 30, 2020) – Standing alongside community members, public health professionals, and service providers, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced the City of Seattle’s new efforts to raise awareness regarding fentanyl and counterfeit pills. The City of Seattle, in partnership with community-based organizations, will convene a series of 25 naloxone trainings to distribute 700 City-purchased naloxone kits. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a nasal spray that can be used to reverse an opioid-involved overdose. Investment in and distribution of naloxone kits is an overdose reversal medication that has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Medical Association. 

“Fentanyl and counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl are spreading throughout our communities, and we must continue to combat this growing crisis. Naloxone can reverse overdoses – these kits can truly save people’s lives,” said Mayor Durkan. “We’re working with our partners to make sure this medication can get into the hands of people who may need it, from our Seattle Public Schools nurses, to our frontline service providers, to people who work with those involved in the criminal legal system. I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to Deborah Savran, David Lilienthal, and Jed Kaufman. In the midst of their grief, they were willing to share their story to save others.”

“We need substance misuse, prevention and rehabilitation resources in our community and throughout our city,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle).  “If this can happen to a ‘straight A’ student it can happen to anyone and any family. We must turn Gabe’s tragedy into triumph, for his family and our community.”

Mayor Durkan directed City staff to identify a series of actions to combat fentanyl and counterfeit pills after receiving a letter from Deborah Savran, David Lilienthal, and Jed Kaufman, the mother, father, and stepfather of Gabriel Lilienthal. Gabe died after unknowingly ingesting a fentanyl-laced, counterfeit prescription pill on September 29, 2019, at the age of 17. Gabe is one of eight confirmed King County teenagers who passed away due to fentanyl-laced pills in 2019.

“Fentanyl is like a serial killer on the street. In many cases, people don’t realize they’re taking a drug that is exponentially more powerful than heroin,” said Deborah Savran and Jed Kaufman. “During these dark days, we have felt compelled to speak out because so many people – parents and kids – don’t know the danger posed by these counterfeit pills. We need to have more harm reduction resources available. But we also need to have an open and honest conversation about the dangers of fentanyl, and the work we all need to do together to stop the spread of this drug.”

In Seattle, the illicit fentanyl marketplace is growing exponentially. In 2018, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) seized 187 fentanyl pills. Through targeted investigations, the Department seized 227,924 pills in 2019. So far in 2020, SPD has already taken 41,000 fentanyl pills off the street.

Counterfeit pills (pills made to look like pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone, but that actually contain fentanyl) are a growing problem in Washington State. Most fentanyl pills are trafficked in through the same routes as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. SPD is working with our partners at the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to conduct ongoing investigations into fentanyl trafficking.

In addition to ongoing law enforcement efforts, investment in proven harm reduction strategies is critical to combating not just the effects of fentanyl, but the effects of the country’s opioid epidemic more broadly. Naloxone distribution is one critical strategy. It is a medication proven to stop the effects of opioids and will help a person who has overdosed wake up and resume breathing. Naloxone can only be used to combat opioids – it will have no impact on a person who has taken another drug. In Washington State, all persons who administer naloxone are protected from liability by “Good Samaritan” laws.

“Increasing treatment access, raising awareness, and combating stigma associated with opioids is one of the most critical things we can do as behavioral health professionals,” said Jim Vollendroff, Director of the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center. “Naloxone is a widely-recognized form of harm reduction and getting this lifesaving medicine into the hands of as many communities as possible is an important step to combat the opioid crisis.”

“We can end the undue suffering that is felt by the entire community when a young person dies. Why would we not equip and train? Why would we not provide lifesaving resources to our young people when it’s necessary?” said Sean Goode, Executive Director of Choose180.

The City of Seattle will purchase 700 naloxone kits to distribute at City convened trainings throughout Seattle. One training will focus on the Office of Economic Development’s (OED) successful naloxone training program administered by the City’s Nightlife Business Services Advocate. This existing program trains business owners and workers in the nightlife sector on how to recognize the signs of an overdose and administer naloxone.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will receive one training to ensure all 90 SPS nurses will be fully trained to administer naloxone. After the nurses, SPS’ safety and security team will receive a naloxone training, as well.

Additional trainings will be conducted in partnership with the Center for Multicultural Health, Choose180, Country Doctor, Hepatitis Education Project, Lambert House, The Marah Project, Not One More, the Seattle Indian Health Board, and YouthCare. The trainings will occur in neighborhoods throughout Seattle and will be culturally responsive to specific communities including LGBTQ+ individuals, people experiencing homelessness, people involved in the criminal legal system, Indigenous communities and communities of color.

Naloxone kits, which contain two doses of naloxone nose spray, will be distributed at each training. The trainings will be conducted by representatives from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Health. In Washington, naloxone is also available to the public at pharmacies that carry it. More information is available at stopoverdose.org.