Spokane County named one of 11 crisis areas for fentanyl-related deaths – Dailyfly.com Lewis-Clark Valley Community

The central square

(The Center Square) – The federal government has selected Spokane County as one of 11 locations across the country with enough fentanyl overdose deaths to warrant special attention.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched Operation Engage Spokane on Tuesday. The multi-pronged outreach involving law enforcement, government leaders, schools and service providers aims to tackle the region’s drug epidemic.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward was present at the ceremony in Spokane where Operation Engage was unveiled. She pledged the support of her administration to help engage the community in the fight for life. Woodward said in a follow-up interview Wednesday with The Center Square that the synthetic opioid fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, which is reflected in overdose rates.

Washington Department of Health records show a more than 186% increase in fentanyl-related overdoses in Spokane County between 2020 and 2021, and a 1,233% increase in such overdoses over the previous three years. Every day, Woodward said, the Spokane Fire Department administers Narcan, a drug to combat the immediate effects of an opioid overdose, or responds to the scene of an overdose.

“It’s going to take a collaborative effort to turn the tide on this issue,” Woodward said.

Fentanyl is frequently mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and made into pills, said East Washington U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref, who was also present at the launch. Although these pills are generally designed to look benign, she said their content is unregulated and a single pill could be deadly.

Of particular concern is the number of teens experimenting with drugs containing fentanyl, Woodward said, putting them at high risk for an overdose.

Woodward said the city will continue to fight the opioid epidemic with its drug take-back events that keep unused prescription drugs off the streets.

She is also considering a mental health task force made up of professionals who can help by identifying service gaps. Woodward has brought together a coalition of about three dozen health care, education, youth services and government officials from across the region to tackle the growing level of behavioral health issues in schools and the community.

“I wish I had the answer to what caused all of this,” Woodward said. “It’s just everywhere; every major city experiences higher crime rates and opioid use.

Frank Tarentino, DEA special agent in charge of the Seattle field division, said Operation Engage Spokane will seek participation from schools, faith-based organizations, social service providers and other community organizations.

“The impact and overall effectiveness of this initiative is directly dependent on community, law enforcement, healthcare, prevention, and social service professionals working together to mitigate the threat of fentanyl,” Tatentino said. “We encourage all residents of Spokane and surrounding communities to explore our Operation Engage webpage to learn more about available resources and programs. We believe it is extremely important to educate our communities and families early on. This learning process is the first step to avoiding drug experimentation, drug abuse, addiction and all related behaviors that plague our communities.

Police Chief Craig Meidl, County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Marsha Malsam, SAFE (Spokane Alliance for Fentanyl Education) and Rayce Rudeen Foundation join Woodward in the Operation Engage collaboration.

Spokane, the second-largest city in Washington, is a prime narcotics distribution hub due to its location on Interstate 90 and its proximity to Canada, Tarentino said.

Drugs that are commonly transported through the Interstate 5 corridor from Mexico and through Spokane are transported throughout the region and east to Idaho and Montana. According to the agency, opioids and prescription drugs are among the top regional drug threats in Washington.

DEA records show counterfeit fentanyl pill seizures in Washington have increased 264% between 2020 and 2021. On the east side of the state, fentanyl seizures have increased 2,700% since 2017. Specifically in Spokane County, the DEA reported an increase in fentanyl seizures. of 1098%.

According to the Northwest Region Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Division of Drug Enforcement reports that the three reservations (Kalispell, Spokane and Colville Tribes) near the city of Spokane are experiencing an alarming increase in fentanyl seizures as well as overdose deaths. drug related.

These troubling statistics put Spokane County on the DEA’s priority list that includes Washington, DC, Kansas City, and Florida’s Broward County, among others. Fentanyl first appeared in eastern Washington in 2016 and quickly flooded the market, according to Waldref.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now reports that the leading killer of Americans aged 18 to 45 is fentanyl overdoses. The CDC estimates that more than 104,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in the 12 months ending September 30, 2021. Sixty-five percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids. such as fentanyl.

Tarentino called fentanyl a “clear and present threat” to communities, with the traffic driven by massive profit margins.

“It’s a business,” Tarenitino said. “It’s a half-trillion-dollar-a-year business driven by greed.”

Federal drug officials have stepped up enforcement efforts across the country, seizing 15,000 pounds of pure fentanyl in 2021. That’s enough to assign a lethal dose to every American, Tarentino said.