1. As King County hit a demoralizing new record of 1,019 overdose deaths in 2022—a jump of nearly 30 percent over the previous year—a Republican state senator has introduced a bill that would make it easier to access test strips that can indicate the presence of fentanyl in drugs.
As PubliCola has reported, fentanyl is now the default opioid for drug users in King County, a trend that has driven the huge spike in overdoses. Even people who don’t seek out opioids can be at risk, because drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can be contaminated with fentanyl. Test strips, which can detect the presence of fentanyl in a small amount of a drug, are an essential part of harm reduction efforts, but state law still classifies them as prohibited “drug paraphernalia,” limiting their availability.
Last year, GOP state senator Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, filed a bill that would have changed that designation, but it died in committee. This session, Sen Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, reintroduced the legislation.
Muzzall told PubliCola that while substance abuse has always been an area of concern for him, it’s also a personal issue. Muzzall is friends with Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki, whose son Patrick died of a fentanyl overdose in 2017 after becoming addicted to pain pills. Muzzall says he knew Janicki’s son and that his death made a deep impression.
“When a mistake like that leads to having to bury your child.. . well, that emptiness never goes away,” Muzzall said. “And that was a tragedy that was brought about by a prescription of Oxycontin. The liability lies with the pharmaceutical industry that led up to that. And it’s just invading our communities.”
Janicki has been a vocal advocate for Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s successful lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, which will add $476 million to the state’s harm reduction and treatment efforts over the next 17 years.
The fentanyl test strip bill is an essential part of those efforts, Muzzall said. “It’s just silly that we don’t make these as easily accessible as possible,” he said. “This bill will take the criminality out of providing them.”
Muzzall, who says fatal overdose is a behavioral and mental health crisis that will likely cost the state a billion dollars to address, is working alongside Democratic Sen. Annette Cleveland of Vancouver on a number of bills to address the issue, and hopes to successfully move the test strip bill through committee this time around.
“If an individual is compassionate, bipartisanship comes easily,” he said.
2. In 2021, then-mayor Jenny Durkan’s information technology department took the public-facing directory of city employees offline, removing a vital resource that allowed members of the public and journalists (as well as city of Seattle employees themselves) to contact people who work at the city. Public employees’ contact information is a matter of public record, and keeping this information secret violates a long tradition of transparency that persists in other government entities across the state, from King County to the entire State of Washington.
Durkan, who falsely claimed the directory would be online again in a matter of months, is no longer in office, but her successor, Bruce Harrell, has made no moves to restore this resource. The former city employee directory website is now a static page with links to a list of the city’s official media relations officers, the websites of various city departments, and the city’s data portal (which does not contain the directory).
Because we believe the city directory is a valuable public resource, PubliCola has taken it upon ourselves to maintain an updated database of city employees and their contact information ourselves. Here’s the latest searchable and downloadable version, with information current as of January 5, 2023. We will continue maintaining and updating this database until and unless the city of Seattle decides to put theirs back online.
—Andrew Engelson, Erica C. Barnett