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Washington State News

Fentanyl Overdoses in Spokane County up 1233% in Last Five Years

Timothy Schumann | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Spokane County Sheriffs served a search warrant early Wednesday morning leading to the arrest of four individuals tied to the alleged sale of fentanyl in the Spokane area.

Ryan Lovitt, 37, was arrested on two felony warrants. Brooke Benton, 29, and Sarah Langford, 39, were both arrested on misdemeanor warrants.

The fourth individual, Damian Plumley, 33, was arrested on a felony warrant for the sale and delivery of a “legend drug” under RCW 69.41.030.

Given his record Plumley, a 16-time convicted felon whose CV includes robbery in the first degree, theft of a firearm, residential burglary, and trafficking stolen property, could face significant jail time if convicted on three felony counts.

In addition to the arrest info above, the news release, issued by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, states that other individuals related to the investigation were detained, identified, and released, though more arrests in the future have not been ruled out. The warrant was part of a greater ongoing investigation into the transportation and sale of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Because it is the second largest city in Washington state, and because of its location on I-90 and proximity to Canada, the DEA calls out Spokane as “a central hub for narcotics distributed throughout Eastern Washington and other States to the east to include Idaho and Montana” on its website, calling opioids and prescription drugs “among the top regional drug threats in Washington.”

Looking at the Washington State Department of Health data, the threat appears to be particularly acute in and around Spokane.

Fentanyl-related overdoses in Spokane County alone are up 186% between 2020 and 2021, nearly doubling, and 1233% between 2017 and 2021.

The DEA website Engage Spokane, devoted to tackling the Opioid epidemic in eastern Washington, also notes that “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 45 is fentanyl overdoses. The CDC estimates that over 104,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2021. Sixty-five percent (65%) of those overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”

All of this despite the fact that, according to the DEA, “from 2017 to 2021 the DEA Seattle Field Division increased its fentanyl seizures by 2,700% in Eastern Washington.”