King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders Offered Hope, Education as Substance Use Rises Nationwide
Approximately 150 people participated in the 2nd annual King County Conference on Substance Use Disorders (CSUD) on Thursday, which was hosted by King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn and featured an array of subject matter experts and people with experiences of a substance use disorder.
CSUD seeks to confront the rise in substance use and fatal overdoses while highlighting resources that are available for those who need treatment. Fatal overdoses continue to climb in King County, with a 40% spike in overdose deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. Substance use has also been on the rise nationwide since the start of the pandemic, with 13% of Americans reporting having started or increased their substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19.
Dunn, who is in recovery and been sober for many years, has been open about his recovery journey in hopes that it will help reduce the stigma, shame, and hopelessness that surrounds addiction and ultimately help others find recovery as well.
“The Conference on Substance Use Disorders seeks to bring folks together around one of the most critical issues of our time, and to ultimately share a message of hope: that recovery is always possible, and there is help for those who need it,” said Dunn. “Our second annual conference was a great success and I am grateful to everyone who contributed and participated.”
One session of CSUD provided education on fentanyl, the driving cause of King County’s overdose death spike, and shared what we as a community can do to help fight it—including Public Health – Seattle & King County’s “Laced and Lethal” awareness campaign that educates youth on the dangers of fentanyl. In King County’s recent mid-biennial supplemental budget, Dunn worked to provide funding to expand “Laced and Lethal” to target a broader audience and educate family members on how to identify signs of drug use. He also recently advocated for declaring fentanyl a public health crisis amid a dramatic spike in fentanyl-caused deaths. Between 2019 and 2021, King County saw a 247% increase in people who have died from fentanyl.
Other sessions included Substance Use After Two Years of the Pandemic - Areas of Concern & Hope, which examined substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic; Stigma, Bias and Compassion - Opportunities to Strengthen Efforts for Whole Person Caring, which explored explore the impact of implicit bias, racial stereotypes and stigma associated with those struggling with substance use disorder; and The Impact of Substance Use Within the Family, which discussed how substance use disorders and addiction affects the entire family dynamic and how families can support loved ones through their journey of recovery.
CSUD ended on a positive note, with a Stories of Hope session featuring multiple individuals in recovery sharing their personal stories of how they have reclaimed their lives from a substance use disorder. Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles also presented a proclamation in honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Anyone who is struggling with mental health or substance use disorders can get connected to treatment and resources by calling SAMHSA's National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)—a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service.