Triumph leaders discuss fentanyl epidemic with U.S. Maria Cantwell

Maria Cantwell, pictured above, currently serves as a United States Senator for the State of Washington.

Triumph Treatment Services had an important seat at the table on Aug. 25 when Yakima County officials, substance use disorder experts, and law enforcement leaders met with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell at a community roundtable to talk about the fentanyl epidemic and its effect locally and across the country. The roundtable was moderated by Triumph CEO Jolene Seda.

Sen. Cantwell traveled to Yakima in support of the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, a bipartisan bill proposed by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. The bill seeks to curb drug trafficking in the U.S. and shut down money-laundering by criminal organizations responsible for the production of fentanyl.

“We want a federal response because this problem is . . . out of control,” Cantwell said. “We need more help. We need people to understand that just one pill can kill people.”

Cassidy Leslie, Triumph Treatment Services’ residential clinical director, told the group about the first time she met a patient reaching out for help for a fentanyl addiction. That was in 2019. That patient, she said, was the only one of 140 served by Triumph that month — less than 1 percent of all patients. But, Leslie said, the number of people seeking help for their fentanyl addiction from just two weeks in August 2023 accounted for more than half of all patients.

“At an average rate, 55% of our patients are in treatment because of fentanyl use at any given time,” Leslie told Cantwell and community leaders.

In addition to the increase in fentanyl users, Leslie said the amount of fentanyl consumed has risen also. When she first started treating fentanyl patients they reported using two to four pills a day. That number is now more than 20 or 30 per day.

Because fentanyl is being made illegally, the concentration of the drug in each pill can vary greatly. Users don’t know if a pill they’re taking contains a lethal dose of the drug, and just one pill can be fatal.

Everyone at the roundtable event agreed the county needs more resources to handle the fentanyl epidemic.

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