EVERETT, Wash. - Fentanyl again is proving to be a serious public safety crisis with a rash of overdoses in the north Sound.
Between the last week of July and the end of the first week in August, emergency responders recorded at least 40 overdoses compared to the first three weeks of July when there were only 10.
Officials say this crisis is showing no signs of slowing down and there is a warning that fentanyl is now being found in multi-colored counterfeit pills that look like the real deal.
"Hope really does mean a lot to people," said Lindsey Arrington.
The non-profit Hope Soldiers organization was founded by Arrington, where she and volunteers use hope as a weapon in the battle against addiction. Arrington estimates around 100 people have been pulled from the grips of addiction since she began the organization about a decade ago.
But addiction today looks different compared to when she started her own journey. She says fentanyl is all but everywhere and the users she meets end up needing more drugs to fulfill a high that lasts shorter than others.
Fentanyl is prolific, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. In the past few months, deputies are finding it in powder or crystal form, and as multi-colored counterfeit pills on the street.
The department says 67 overdoses were fatal in the first quarter of 2022 alone. Plus, experts say treatment providers are seeing more users dependent on fentanyl than anything else.
"No longer heroin, no longer pharmaceutical, but manufactured fentanyl," said Caleb Banta-Green, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "It’s now the predominant opioid we’re seeing."
Those addicted to fentanyl today can access promising therapies, but Banta-Green worries programs do not do enough to keep users safe before they agree to or are able to begin treatment.
"Some people are prepared and ready for treatment or healthcare today, but that’s a minority," he said, stressing the importance of harm reduction strategies. "I want something for everybody every day."
Arrington says those lost to addiction should not be forgotten as remembering their struggle can be an inspiration for those battling on their own.
"It’s terrible and sad and avoidable," she said. "When it does happen, we don’t let it happen in vain. We use it for the good of the people that need to know that that life matters and so does theirs."
This coming Wednesday, neighbors will come together for the 6th annual "A Night to Remember, A Time to Act," memorial which honors the hundreds of lives taken by addiction locally.
A resource fair is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the Snohomish County Plaza followed by a candlelight vigil.