“Operation Overdrive” targets areas with high violence, overdoses to combat crime
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that he urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to include three Washington cities in a federal initiative aimed at combating drug-related violence and overdoses.
In a letter to Garland, Ferguson urged the addition of Everett, Spokane and Yakima to a Drug Enforcement Administration initiative called “Operation Overdrive.” The federal agency uses national crime statistics and health data to identify hot spots of drug-related violence and overdose deaths across the country. It then devotes law enforcement resources to those communities, where criminal drug networks cause the most harm.
According to federal statistics, Washington state experienced the largest percentage increase in drug overdose deaths in the nation from February 2022 through February 2023. Snohomish, Spokane and Yakima counties experienced higher overdose death rates than the statewide average over a three-year period from 2019 through 2021. In Snohomish County, 156 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2021 alone. Overdoses from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in Spokane County surged from fewer than 10 in 2019 to 101 in 2021. Fentanyl overdoses in Yakima County more than doubled during this period.
“We must foster strong partnerships and share intelligence among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to focus our tools where they can have the most impact,” Ferguson said. “My office has recovered more than $1 billion and counting to combat the fentanyl epidemic, but more work is needed to identify and dismantle criminal drug networks.”
In the letter, Ferguson wrote that designating Everett, Spokane or Yakima as Operation Overdrive sites could have ripple effects that benefit surrounding communities and areas. For instance, Everett’s position on the Interstate 5 corridor makes it a deadly hub for traffickers smuggling fentanyl from Mexico to British Columbia. Spokane’s position on Interstate 90 makes it attractive to traffickers smuggling fentanyl throughout eastern Washington and into neighboring states.
The increased flow of fentanyl has also caused a disproportionate number of overdose deaths in Tribal nations close to Spokane and Yakima.
Money already flowing to Washington
Ferguson's litigation against opioid companies has secured more than $1 billion for Washington state over the next 15 years.
In October 2022, all 125 eligible local governments signed onto the $518 million resolution stemming from Ferguson’s earlier lawsuits against opioid distributors. The state received its first two payments of $82 million from the three largest opioid distributors.
Local governments will determine how to spend their share, and the Legislature will determine how the state share is allocated in communities around the state. In the 2023 legislative session, the Legislature allocated $64.1 million from the opioid payments. Examples of legislative support included:
- $18,168,000 for prevention, treatment and recovery support services to address and remediate the opioid epidemic.
- $15,447,000 to tribes and urban Indian health programs for opioid and overdose response activities.
- $5,000,000 for the Department of Health to expand the distribution of naloxone through overdose education and a distribution program.
- $4,000,000 for the authority to provide short-term housing vouchers for individuals with substance use disorders.
All spending decisions must be consistent with the state Opioid Response Plan. Recoveries can be used to address the Fentanyl epidemic.
Approved strategies include:
- Improving and expanding treatment for opioid use disorder.
- Supporting individuals in treatment and recovery, including providing comprehensive wrap-around services to individuals with opioid use disorder, including housing, transportation, education, job placement, job training or childcare.
- Addressing the needs of pregnant women and their families, including those with babies with neonatal disorder.
- Preventing opioid misuse, overprescribing and overdoses through, among other strategies, school-based and youth-focused programs, public education campaigns, increased availability and distribution of naloxone and other drugs that treat overdoses, additional training and enhancements to the prescription drug monitoring program.a
- Supporting first responders.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
General contacts: Click here