It's February and already 7 people have died of drug overdoses in Yakima County according to the Yakima County Coroners Office. Last year 98 people died of drug overdoses with more than half related to the deadly drug Fentanyl.

The 98 deaths set a new record in Yakima County in 2021

Coroner Jim Curtice says that's the largest number of deadly drug overdoses ever recorded in the county. He says many who died were taking what they thought was Percocet but instead they took Fentanyl. He warns that some of the blue pills with the number 30 stamped on them are counterfeit drugs laced with deadly Fentanyl.

Overdose deaths are on the rise not only in Yakima but throughout the state

According to the Washington State Department of Health, opioid overdose deaths in Washington rose from 2013 through 2020, driven by heroin deaths, and more recently, Fentanyl deaths. State officials say deaths involving Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now more common than those involving heroin, with the highest death rates and largest increases being seen in rural areas like Yakima and Klickitat Counties.

Senator Jim Honeyford says Fentanyl-testing equipment could save lives

In an effort to prevent more deaths the Washington State Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved the first in a series of measures sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside. Senate Bill 5509 would exclude Fentanyl-testing equipment from the definition of drug paraphernalia, helping identify the deadly substance. “This is about saving lives,” says Honeyford. “Fentanyl is responsible for the growing number of drug deaths in the rural communities I represent. Making sure Fentanyl test strips are legal and easily accessible would allow users to check for the potency, amount, or presence of Fentanyl in the drugs that users might be taking." Honeyford adds "some may question allowing addicts to have this tool, but you can’t change a young person’s behavior or help them break their addiction, if they can’t even survive a single, unknown lethal dose of Fentanyl-laced drugs. Again, this legislation will save lives.”

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