WA health official encourages public drug use after bus drivers report symptoms from fentanyl exposure

"We want people to be using in a place where if they overdose they can be discovered and helped through that overdose."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
In response to increasing concerns from King County bus drivers regarding rampant public use of fentanyl and other drugs by addicts on transit systems, a local health official has claimed that secondhand exposure "just wasn't happening" and stated, "We don't want people to be using in private spaces alone, we want people to be using in a place where if they overdose they can be discovered and helped through that overdose."

King County Metro drivers are concerned about exposure to rampant fentanyl use on mass transit in Washington state. The problem has been increasing for years as local Democrats made the problems worse through their policies of decriminalizing possession.

Data obtained by KOMO News revealed there were 1,885 reports of drug use on the bus system in 2022 with 52 workers reported being exposed to smoke from drugs. 16 operators have filed worker's comp claims.

Stevon Williams, a bus driver for King County Metro, told KOMO that fentanyl smoke is so common that it's making him sick. "I really hadn’t ever heard of fentanyl smoking on the bus when I was hired by Metro. I don’t want to be put in a predicament where I’m around drugs every day on my job - I didn’t sign up for that."

Williams added, "You have people who are on there smoking right beside passengers, right beside mothers with little children. It’s for the drug users, they’re looked out for first."

He is currently now on leave while he receives medical testing for exposure to fentanyl smoke.

In 2022, the county declared fentanyl a public health emergency as overdose deaths spiked. According to King County Health data, there were 708 overdose deaths in 2021. In 2022, King County saw 1,019 fatal overdoses, the highest number of overdose deaths the county has on record with Fentanyl being responsible for 686 of those deaths. 

The county already recorded 31 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2023 as of January 22. Washington Democrats previously decriminalized drug use and possession after the state supreme court ruled that the state’s felony possession law was unconstitutional in what is known as the Blake Decision. 

Due to the record number of fentanyl overdose deaths in King County, it was revealed earlier this year that the medical examiner is running out of places to store the dead bodies.

In a post on the health department's blog medical director of the Washington Poison Center Dr. Scott Phillips, downplayed the exposure to smoke from fentanyl claiming that it presents "no real risk."

"When someone smokes fentanyl, most of the drug has been filtered out by the user before there is secondhand smoke. It doesn't just sort of float around ... there's no real risk for the everyday person being exposed to secondhand opioid smoke," Phillips said.

Thea Oliphant-Wells, a social worker for Seattle & King County Public Health said in a 2022 King County Metro meeting on substance use disorder, "It's important to note when you see fentanyl reporting that you take a really take a critical eye because there is a lot of misinformation out there. We're not seeing folks developing secondhand here, this is just not happening. Not to say that it could never happen, but we're not seeing it."

The formerly homeless addict, who advocates for heroin injection sites and previously headed the King County needle exchanges, told Metro workers and riders, "We don't want people to be using in private spaces alone, we want people to be using in a place where if they overdose they can be discovered and helped through that overdose."

In her role with the King County Opiate Addiction Task Force, she has been advocating for injection sites, also known as "consumption sites," which have been shown to increase overdoses, needle debris, and crime while not encouraging addicts to seek treatment.

A source told The Post Millennial, "she’s using her 'harm reduction' model to turn our public transit into consumption sites at the expense of everyone else." 

Even though Seattle-King County Public Health officials continue to claim secondhand fentanyl smoke is not a threat, Metro has added security and has recently been given the green light to remove people from transit for smoking fentanyl.

Drug use has been rampant despite Metro policy prohibiting the use of drugs on board buses. As a result, the transit agency is attempting to double its staff of security guards to respond to safety issues on buses and at transit stations.

King County Executive Dow Constantine told KOMO in an interview on Monday "We are removing people from transit for smoking fentanyl, or smoking anything because it is not consistent with the rules to smoke on transit. We need to just enforce the rules and enforce the law.”

The Center for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) recently said it does not have data on occupational exposure to illicit drugs.

Lawsuits filed in 2018 by Seattle and King County against big pharma revealed that over 80 percent of the people living on the streets in the area have a substance abuse issue despite the city and county spending billions of dollars on homeless services and what they refer to as “harm reduction” for addicts but the problem has only continued to increase.

As of November 2022, King County reported that fentanyl was involved in 70 percent of all confirmed overdose deaths in the county in 2022 regardless of a person’s housing status.

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