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How Gov. Inslee plans to address fentanyl overdose deaths in Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee said fentanyl is the nuclear weapon of opioids. He worked with first responders, community members and students to create the proposal.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Breaking generational drug and substance use is hard. 

"I did grow up in that environment from the time I was born to when I was 7 years old," said high school senior Joscelyn Etherton. 

Despite the statistics, she is actively trying to help other kids. "I've been sexually assaulted in my life over multiple times and I think it's really important for people to have the resources to learn what sexual assault is and how to prevent it," said Etherton.

She runs a program at school that gives students resources to address trauma. 

"It has to stop with me. I don't want that life," said Etherton.

Etherton was in Snohomish County to hear Gov. Jay Inslee address first responders, public health and educators about his plan to reduce fentanyl and overdose deaths in the state. 

"They need to be advised how deadly fentanyl is, it's a different drug. It's the nuclear weapon of opioids," Inslee said.

In January's legislative session, Inslee proposed adding $50 million in new funding for the 2023–25 biennial budget. He plans to address the fentanyl crisis by allocating money to first responders, recovery supports, treatment access, overdose prevention, community health hubs and, at the very top of the list, education and awareness. 

"I think implementing more resources in schools for kids to get better mental health help will greatly impact that," said Etherton.

From students to first responders. "It's impacting our workforce and people are leaving the profession because they feel powerless to do something for the patients," said Dr. Michael Sayre, the medical director with the Seattle Fire Department. 

"In many parts of my county, it's 2 and 1/2 hours to proper mental health treatment and it's 5 minutes to fentanyl. As long as that's the case, we won't be turning this around," said Allison Berry, a health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties. 

Inslee's final proposed budget will be released later this month. After the Senate and House leaders release theirs, a final deal will be worked out by the spring.

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