Seattle morgues at capacity amid record overdoses: Official

SEATTLE (NewsNation) — King County is running low on storage space for bodies amid an overdose crisis, according to the county medical examiner’s office.

A recent report from the county found 70% of fatal overdoses in Seattle are fentanyl-related. Between 2012 and 2019, Seattle and King County saw a 6% increase each year. In 2020, that number jumped by 20%. The following year, it jumped an additional 39%.

For seven years, overdose deaths were increasing at approximately the same rate year over year. Then, with the insurgence of fentanyl into communities, it skyrocketed — and began filling morgues.

King County saw more overdose deaths in roughly the first 10 months of 2022 than in all of 2021.

King County’s public health director says it’s likely to be even worse in 2023.

Fatal overdoses occur among people of all ages, but are more common among middle-aged people. Nearly 65% of fentanyl-involved deaths were linked to pills.

King County Medical Examiner Dr. Faisal Khan warned officials of the severity of the situation during a health meeting last week.

“The medical examiner’s office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb,” he said. “Obviously, they have finite space and the coolers they use, and that space, is now being exceeded on a regular basis.”

Khan, however, believes there’s a plan — but it comes at a cost.

His hopes would be to see fentanyl test strips made readily available, a reduction in criminal punishments for those who use drugs and compassionate care provided to people living with substance use disorder.


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