OLYMPIA — Legislation heard in the Senate today would provide schools with updated substance use prevention education materials related to the risks of using fentanyl and other opioids.

“Today was about school safety. It is an absolute necessity that school MUST be a safe space. It is the only way to learn,” said Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5923. “Our duty to students is simple: Keeping them safe — and teaching them how to REMAIN safe. That’s what this bill, and many of the bills heard in committee today were about. Our hands are not tied here — we can help ensure young people are made aware of this immense hazard, and we can ensure schools have NARCAN available in these aweful cases of overdose.”

Deaths from opioid overdose have increased dramatically in Washington state, with an average of two deaths a day in 2023, according to the state Department of Health. For Washington’s youth 24 and under, deaths from overdose have increased six-fold since 2017 and totaled more than 190 in 2022, and numbers are still climbing.

More than 90% of these deaths are from fentanyl overdoses. One of the most troubling elements, said Wellman, is that fentanyl can be laced into other drugs such as marijuana or look like prescription painkillers, so users might have no idea what they are consuming. Even the tiniest amount can be lethal.

The governor’s supplemental budget for 2024 adds $64 million to address fentanyl and opioid issues, on top of $200 million allocated in the 2023-25 biennial budget.