Rep. Travis Couture files bill to protect kids from fentanyl

As more Washington children die from exposure to fentanyl and other drugs in the home, Rep. Travis Couture has filed a signature bill to protect kids from parents abusing illicit drugs.

“Our children are our future and must be protected at all costs,” said Couture, R-Allyn. “The fact that children already under the care of the state with parents referred to the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) are dying from fentanyl exposure is abhorrent and I will not stand by and watch it continue.”

The number of deaths involving children who either were or had been recently under the supervision of DCYF is shockingly high. A recently published report from the state Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds found 85 child deaths and 62 near fatalities with over a quarter (22) of those deaths and more than half (34) of the near fatalities involving accidental ingestion or overdose – 67% involving fentanyl. A recent report from DCYF that looked at data for the first quarter of 2023 showed eight incidents of children nearly dying from ingesting fentanyl or opioids.

 In 2023, a one-year-old girl in Snohomish County died of fentanyl poisoning in an Everett hotel room after being left in the care of her mother despite fierce opposition from the little girl’s grandmother. Also, in 2023 a Tacoma mother brutally tortured and murdered her 3-year-old son while abusing meth – while under CPS supervision. And, just last week a 4-year-old Kennewick girl lost her life after ingesting fentanyl while her parents were allegedly in the restroom doing drugs.

“These are just three of the horrific outcomes that have been allowed to happen under the state’s watch,” said Couture. “We cannot allow these outcomes to continue.”

Couture’s bill aims to protect children from imminent harm due to being in the custody of parents or other adults using fentanyl or other illicit substances while in their care.

House Bill 2233 would do the following:

  • Requires immediate removal of children from caretakers using illegal substances, including fentanyl, by classifying the presence of those drugs as “imminent harm;”
  • Creates additional training and fentanyl-specific risk assessment tools for caseworkers investigating abuse; and
  • Provides caseworkers with fentanyl test-strips to confirm the presence of fentanyl in the home.

“While there are similar pieces of legislation out there for the 2024 legislative session, I do not believe they go far enough to accomplish what is most important – protecting Washington children,” said Couture. “These kids are not making the active decision to expose themselves to fentanyl and if we don’t protect them nobody will.”

The imminent harm bill is the second of two Couture bills involving DCYF. In December, he prefiled House Bill 1875 which creates a series of changes to protect social workers working for DCYF, including making the assault of a social worker a felony – the same protection we provide our state ferry workers. The bill would also allow social workers to be accompanied by first responders if they reasonably believe a situation could be potentially dangerous. 

“The ongoing increase in assaults on DCYF social workers is another failure by Washington state that cannot be allowed to continue,” said Couture. “I look forward to strong bi-partisan support on both of these bills. I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will agree protecting Washington children and those the state employs to protect kids must be a top priority for the Legislature.”

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov