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Recovery leaders announce 3rd Annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders



King County substance use disorder and recovery leaders announced on Tuesday that the 3rd annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 11 at Bellevue College.

“Our region continues to witness more and more people dying of overdoses year after year—a tragedy that has touched the lives of too many mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends,” said King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn. “In the midst of this overdose crisis, the King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders seeks to offer solutions and hope. I encourage anyone who is interested in increasing their understanding of how to help folks find their path to recovery to attend this informative and unique event.”

Dunn first launched the King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders in 2021 and advocated for $50,000 in funding for the conference in King County’s 2023-24 Biennial Budget. Now in its third year, Dunn, who is representing the King County Council, is partnering with Public Health – Seattle & King County Strategic Advisor on Behavioral Health Brad Finegood, King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Leo Flor, and King County Recovery Coalition Director Heather Venegas to lead the conference.

“Public Health has been working with elected officials and community partners to address the impacts of substance use and overdose in our community,” Finegood said. “This is a public health crisis and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach. The third annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorder is a vital opportunity to come together as a King County community to learn and develop additional ways to address the overdose crisis.”

This year’s conference will feature keynote speaker, panel discussions on a variety of substance use and recovery topics, and presentations from well-known subject matter experts related to the conference theme: Understanding how we can better meet people where they are at on their journey to recovery.

“The King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders is an important occasion to build the common understanding and common purpose that we need to support more people in starting and maintaining their recovery in the face of a local and national crisis,” Flor said. “Too many people experience overdoses in our community, and new types of substances like synthetic opioids make those overdoses even more deadly. While communities across the nation face similar challenges, our regional way forward must start with the courage to listen to people in recovery about what works, to pursue effective solutions at a bold scale, and to support the behavioral health providers who support clients every day. We can save lives by working together, and this conference is a powerful opportunity to do that.”

These informative presentations and discussions will take place at a time when deaths caused by overdoses are tragically surging in King County. In 2022, fatal overdoses rose by over 42% (1,008) compared to 2021 (709), the previous record-high year. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid drug that is 50-100 times more powerful than other opioids, is currently driving most these overdose deaths, accounting for 80% of the total King County fatal overdoses in 2022. So far this year, King County is experiencing a higher rate of fatal overdoses (3.41 overdose deaths per day) compared to 2022 (2.76 overdose deaths per day). These trends can be found on the Public Health – Seattle & King County Overdose Data Dashboard.

“At the King County Recovery Coalition (KCRC), we know that when people are given a meaningful chance, they can and do recover. This year’s conference continues the tradition of Councilmember Reagan Dunn, and King County’s commitment to addressing our community’s ongoing substance use and recovery needs,” Venegas said. “We look forward to connecting with the community, seeking long-term solutions, and showing that recovery is possible.”

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend, but advanced registration is required. Topics and the keynote speaker will be announced in the weeks to come. Visit the King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders to keep up to date and to register.

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