Medical examiner’s office in Seattle is running out of space for dead bodies amid fentanyl crisis

Fentanyl crisis in Seattle is SO BAD medical examiner’s office is running out of space for dead bodies, health officials warn

  • One medical examiner’s office in Washington is nearly out of space for bodies
  • The King County Medical Examiner’s Office director recently said during a Board of Health meeting they are nearly out of room for more bodies 
  • In October, officials reported 710 total fentanyl deaths in King County in 2022, more than 2021’s entire total
  • Already In the first three weeks of 2023, 35 overdose deaths have occurred
  • More than 300 homeless people died in 2022 in King County 

The drug epidemic in Washington state is so bad that some local coroner’s offices are at capacity or have nearly run out of space for the bodies of those who have died from overdoses. 

According to officials with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, the department is struggling to keep up with the number of incoming bodies as the fentanyl crisis continues and worsens. 

‘A key indication of just how bad things are at the end of 2022 and likely to get worse [in] 2023, the medical examiner’s office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb,’ Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan recently said. 

Officials raised alarms back in October when they reported more than 700 overdose deaths in the first 10 months of the year, more than all of 2021. 

Already In the first three weeks of 2023, 35 overdose deaths have occurred in King County, according to local outlets

This is Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan

This is Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan

The news comes amid a startling report on the number of homeless deaths in Seattle in 2022, which reached 310 by year’s end. The previous record was 195 in 2018. 

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, fentanyl contributed to more than half of the deaths and many individuals had a mix of multiple drugs in their system including cocaine and methamphetamine.

The comments from Dr. Khan regarding the limited space in the morgues came during a Board of Health meeting last week.

‘Obviously, they have finite space in the coolers they use, and that space is now being exceeded on a regular basis,’ Khan said.

The health director said the overdoses are the largest issue facing the county at the time being and fentanyl is now behind 70 percent of the county’s overdose deaths. 

‘When the final review of fatal overdoses is completed in the upcoming weeks, I fear that 2022 will set another heartbreaking record for fatal overdoses in King County,’ Dr. Khan said. 

‘It will more than double the number of lives lost compared to just three years ago in 2019,’ Dr. Khan continued. 

Officials raised alarms back in October when they reported more than 700 overdose deaths in the first 10 months of the year, more than all of 2021

Officials raised alarms back in October when they reported more than 700 overdose deaths in the first 10 months of the year, more than all of 2021

This is King County, home to Seattle, where the drug epidemic has worsened in recent years

This is King County, home to Seattle, where the drug epidemic has worsened in recent years

Already In the first three weeks of 2023, 35 overdose deaths have occurred in King County, according to local outlets

Already In the first three weeks of 2023, 35 overdose deaths have occurred in King County, according to local outlets

These startling graphs show the number of overdose deaths in Seattle and the areas

These startling graphs show the number of overdose deaths in Seattle and the areas 

The news comes amid a startling report on the number of homeless deaths in Seattle in 2022, which reached 310 by year's end

The news comes amid a startling report on the number of homeless deaths in Seattle in 2022, which reached 310 by year’s end

Data indicates that drug overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years. 

In 2020, the county recorded 173 fentanyl overdoses. In 2021, that number increased by 122 percent to 385 people. 

In 2022, the death total once again increased, hitting 710 before the year was over. 

So far in 2023, nearly three dozen people have died from overdoses in King County. If this rate continues and does not worsen, the county will records just over 600 deaths by the end of the year. 

In 2020, the county recorded 173 fentanyl overdoses. In 2021, that number increased by 122 percent to 385 people

In 2020, the county recorded 173 fentanyl overdoses. In 2021, that number increased by 122 percent to 385 people

This is the King County Medical Examiner's Office in Seattle

This is the King County Medical Examiner’s Office in Seattle 

If the current rate of overdose death continues and does not worsen, the county will records just over 600 deaths by the end of the year

If the current rate of overdose death continues and does not worsen, the county will records just over 600 deaths by the end of the year

In the meantime, officials say they are looking into temporary options to counteract the finite amount of space available in the morgues. 

‘We have options for temporary morgue surge capacity when our census count gets high, including storing decedents on autopsy gurneys and partnerships with funeral homes,’ a public health spokesperson told KTHH

‘We’re exploring longer-term options for adding more capacity,’ they continued. 

Khan said he believes many of the recent deaths have been caused by the discrete inclusion of fentanyl in drugs that look like prescription pills. He also said the drug can be made to look like cocaine or heroin. 

‘People do no realize that they are taking fentanyl,’ Khan said.  

He also added that fentanyl is the ‘biggest driver’ of the overdoses and that the drug is being found in ‘white powder and in fake pills, which are flooding the streets.’ 

Officials say they are looking into temporary options to counteract the finite amount of space available in the morgues

Officials say they are looking into temporary options to counteract the finite amount of space available in the morgues

310 homeless individuals died in 2022, the vast majority from drug overdoses

310 homeless individuals died in 2022, the vast majority from drug overdoses 

Last year, the public health agency gave out more than 10,000 kits of naloxone, the opiod-overdose reversal medication. 

They also handed out around 100,000 fentanyl test strips and have upped public campaigns about awareness of the deadly substance’s presence in other drugs.  

The shocking numbers indicate the actions have done little to help tackle the ongoing drug and fentanyl epidemic. 

Part of the problem can be traced back to the Washington state Supreme Court’s decriminalization of drugs back in 2021. 

In February 2021, the court ruled 5-4 Washington law outlawing possession of drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin for personal use was unconstitutional. 

The decision resulted in the immediate wiping of drug possession convictions and dismissal of drug charges, some dating back 40 years. 

Officials have also faced backlash for not listening to calls for stricter drug laws from constituents, and have mostly doubled down on their harm reduction methods. 

Last year, the public health agency gave out more than 10,000 kits of naloxone, the opiod-overdose reversal medication

Last year, the public health agency gave out more than 10,000 kits of naloxone, the opiod-overdose reversal medication

They also handed out around 100,000 fentanyl test strips

They also handed out around 100,000 fentanyl test strips

Part of the problem can be traced back to the Washington state Supreme Court's decriminalization of drugs back in 2021

Part of the problem can be traced back to the Washington state Supreme Court’s decriminalization of drugs back in 2021

Seattle’s homeless, crime, and drug problems have now become so dire that many businesses are fleeing the downtown area. 

Just days ago, DailyMail.com reported that Seattle lost its downtown Nike flagship store and multiplex movie theater amid the ongoing issues.  

On Friday it was announced the Nike at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pike Street would shut its doors for good

Nike’s exit came right after Regal Cinemas announced it would reject the lease of the Meridian 16 multiplex located on Seventh Avenue and Pike Street.

Seattle's homeless, crime, and drug problems have now become so dire that many businesses are fleeing the downtown area

Seattle’s homeless, crime, and drug problems have now become so dire that many businesses are fleeing the downtown area

Just days ago, DailyMail.com reported that Seattle lost its downtown Nike flagship store and multiplex movie theater amid the ongoing issues

Just days ago, DailyMail.com reported that Seattle lost its downtown Nike flagship store and multiplex movie theater amid the ongoing issues

While Nike has yet to comment on why it’s shutting down the store after more than 26 years of service, local residents told the Seattle Times that street crime was likely among the biggest motivators for the departure.

Shoppers in downtown Seattle were devastated as they visited the Nike store for the last time on Friday, fearing it might be the start of a new wave of exits from the city.

Richard Green – a Nike fanatic who was dressed head to toe in the brand, including socks and underwear – told the Times he was ‘heartbroken’ over the closing.

‘I had big plans for this year,’ Green said of his shopping habits as he stared into the closing store, which had security guards watching over the mourning customers.

According to the recent figures from the Seattle Police Department, 2022 was on its way to match the previous year’s figures in terms of crime. 

As of November 2022, police reported 285 rapes, 1,654 robberies and 3,258 aggravated assaults.

Murder, however, was the only figure that surpassed 2021’s year-end-count, with 48 reported before 2022 was done, a 12.5 percent increase.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, at least 18 homeless people were killed in 2022, and among them was Trenton Harris, 30, who was fatally shot four times in July.

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