SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Snohomish County logged 232 deaths from drug overdoses in 2020, the most in recorded history.
That trend continues in 2021. Outreach workers said seven people died over this past weekend.
The youngest, according to Robert Smiley of the Hand Up Project, was 17 years old.
"I just don't know what to do anymore," he said. "They just keep getting younger and younger."
Over the past 20 years, the number of overdose deaths in Snohomish County has risen steadily.
Last year's record was a 46% increase from 2019 and a whopping 137% increase since 2010, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner.
Nationwide, America saw 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020. That's a 32% increase from the previous year
"I've had a lot of friends overdose and die," Lindsey Arrington said.
By 2015, Arrington was sober, but her best friend was not. He died of a fentanyl overdose while trying to get clean.
"Grief, it disables you. It paralyzes you," Arrington said. "I experienced that for several months after losing my best friend."
Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said the synthetic opioid fentanyl is largely responsible for the continued spike in deaths. He points out the county has now equipped all law enforcement with the overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The health department is also partnering with Providence and Swedish hospitals to follow up with non-fatal overdoses to make sure people receive treatment and also to study trends.
While the pandemic has certainly played a part in the spike, Spitters said there is a greater societal ill he calls a "pre-existing mass addiction crisis."
"Opioids and other drugs are among but not exclusively part of the problem but these drug deaths are increasing, preventable and greatly worrisome," Spitters said.
As for Arrington, she let her grief give her purpose. She now runs the organization Hope Soldiers that provides people with pathways to recovery and helps families of those who've died recover themselves.
She knows her work is far from finished.
"It really could happen to anybody," she said. "It's sad and it's really scary."
Hope Soldiers is part of Snohomish County Overdose Awareness Day on August 31.