Chelan County Coroner Reports Surge in Fentanyl Deaths
Chelan County is dealing with a surge Fentanyl in overdose deaths.
County Coroner Wayne Harris reports the deaths from the drug rose from six in 2021 to 20 last year.
He says users are often not aware that they're ingesting Fentanyl, which is costing them their lives.
"Fentanyl, being a synthetic drug, is being infused in methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, sometimes even marijuana," said Harris. "So, the individual that's using the illicit drug may not be aware that the fentanyl is in the drug."
Harris was interviewed on the bi-weekly video series Chelan County Connection.
He said there have been waves of oxycodone, heroin and methamphetamine use in the county over the years, but fentanyl now dominates the illicit drug market.
"Fentanyl is replacing all of those drugs right now because of the accessibility, I believe, and because it's so cheap," Harris said.
Harris also said there's a shortage of forensic pathologists nationwide that's affecting Washington State as well.
The pathologists would travel to counties without a medical examiner to perform autopsies.
Now, non-medical examiner counties such as Chelan are drawing blood or using urine samples to help determine a cause of death before sending blood away for toxicology testing.
County commissioners approved $42,000 in federal pandemic-relief money to purchase a blood testing analyzer from the Randox company.
Harris said the machine, known as the MultiSTAT Analyzer, will save time compared to sending blood samples to a lab in King County, which can require six to eight weeks to process results.
The blood test analyzer can process a blood test in about 30 minutes.
Harris said the machine will allow the coroner’s office to release a body to a funeral home quickly once a cause of death is determined.
He said the county would be receiving the analyzer within a couple of weeks, and is in the process of negotiating with Douglas County for handling its blood testing on a fee basis.