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King County launches pilot program aimed at curbing opioid overdoses

Eastside Fire and Rescue hopes to provide more resources to people when non-fatal overdoses occur.

SEATTLE — In the area Eastside Fire & Rescue serves, there have been 67 fatal overdoses since January 2020.

Battalion Chief Greg Garat has been there to respond to the 911 calls.

"With the fentanyl that's getting mixed into the drugs, you never know what you're going to get," Garat said.

At a Friday news conference about crime in downtown Seattle, Frank Tarentino III, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Seattle Field Division, said drugs are fueling the problem.

"Drug trafficking and gun violence are directly linked," Tarentino said.

Last year, the DEA Seattle Field Division seized enough pure fentanyl to kill every person in Washington state, according to Tarentino.

"We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to reduce the drug-related violence," he said.

At Eastside Fire & Rescue, Jamie Formisano said the data tells the story with King County's number of fatal overdoses moving in an alarming direction.

"King County Public Health brought this program to us almost a year ago because they're seeing a rise in opioid overdoses," Formisano said.

After partnering and planning with Public Health - Seattle & King County, a new pilot program recently debuted. In three weeks' time, Eastside Fire & Rescue has provided three Naloxone Leave-Behind Kits.

"It contains two doses of Naloxone," said Garat, adding that when they respond to non-fatal overdoses, they leave a kit behind.

"If they've overdosed, and this brings them back out of respiratory arrest, they still need to seek medical care because those opioids are still in their system," Garat said. 

In Seattle, the city says it is moving more police officers and resources into the downtown core to combat a rise in crime, including drug-related offenses.

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