Coordinated opioid fentanyl outreach initiative for the greater Spokane and Tri-Cities communities announced
SPOKANE, Wash., - On October 21 - 22, 2020, United States Attorney William Hyslop and DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis announced a coordinated Opioid Fentanyl Outreach initiative by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, community leaders, prevention specialists and school superintendents in Spokane and the Tri-Cities areas. They were joined in the announcements by Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, Spokane Chief of Police Craig Meidl and by Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Dr. Traci Pierce, Superintendent of the Kennewick School District.
The Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Initiative addresses the public safety and public health threats caused by the increasing influx of deadly fentanyl throughout Eastern District of Washington. This initiative has a multi-pronged approach with the focus on educating our communities and directing resources through community outreach and prevention efforts.
United States Attorney Hyslop stated, “Our communities, our residents, our parents, and our youth are all faced with the growing and continued influx of deadly fentanyl into Eastern Washington. Very small amounts in a fentanyl-laced pill can kill a person. We are now seeing it here, and sadly, we are now witnessing deaths in our high school and young adult populations. Dangerous counterfeit pills killing Americans are manufactured in mass quantities by drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico. In response, law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels have increased efforts to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking groups for importing and distributing this lethal narcotic in the Spokane, Yakima and Tri-Cities areas. However, this is much greater than just a law enforcement issue; it is now a critical community issue that everyone must address.”
Keith Weis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated, “Now, it is more important than ever that we all come together as a call for action to save lives. Per the CDC, in 2019 more than 71,000 lives were lost in the United States as a result of drug overdoses. Of this number, approximately 51% of the deaths can be attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Alarmingly, DEA seizures of fentanyl in Eastern Washington have increased almost 200% over the 2019 to 2020 time period. A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary based on an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors. Additionally, fentanyl can be lethal when it is airborne or even when touched and absorbed through the skin.”
As part of the Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Initiative, community, law enforcement, and educational leaders have come together in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Yakima to address this issue. Plans are underway with media engagement pieces, town halls and presentations. On October 7th, 2020, DEA Diversion in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services held a virtual conference with hundreds of health care professionals in Washington providing information and support during the pandemic and raising awareness on the ongoing opioid crisis.
On October 12, 2020, a 12 week media awareness campaign was launched in the Eastern District of Washington, “You Can Save Lives” knowing the warning signs of counterfeit fentanyl pills keeps your loved ones and the community safe. Viewers can obtain a variety of resources at:
Community forums and parent discussions are being organized. School Superintendents throughout the region are collaborating on educational lessons and presentations, with a focus on student involvement to spread the message. A special video about the fentanyl problem is being produced and will be available.
Another resource available to educators and the community is DEA Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness program. Red Ribbon Week is celebrated annually October 23-31. This year’s theme is “Be Happy, Be Brave, Be Drug Free.” You can learn more about DEA Red Ribbon and ways to get involved through programs and contests by visiting https://www.dea.gov/redribbon Other outreach efforts are being added as they are planned.
This Saturday, October 24, 2020, National Drug Take Back Day will be recognized. The United States Attorney’s Office is sponsoring a socially distanced “Drug Take Back” site from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the drive-through parking lot of the Boy Scouts of America, Inland Northwest Council, 411 Boy Scout Way in Spokane. More information about Drug Take Back Day is available at https://www.deatakeback.com
The Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Strategy Committee Greater Spokane and Spokane County Members includes:
William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney; Keith Weis, DEA Special Agent in Charge; Mark Haigh, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge; Laci Larson, DEA Group Supervisor – Spokane District Office; Stephanie Van Marter, Assistant United States Attorney; Honorable Nadine Woodward, Mayor – City of Spokane; Chief Craig Meidl, Spokane Police Department; Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office; Chief Dave Ellis, Spokane Valley Police Department; Christian Parker, FBI supervisory Senior Resident Agent – Spokane; Larry Haskell, Spokane County Prosecutor; Dr. Bob Lutz, Spokane Regional Health District; Dr. Nicole Rodin, Clinical Assistant Professor – Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Dr. Michal Dunn, Superintendent ESD 101; Dr. Adam Swinyard, Superintendent – Spokane Public Schools; Shawn Woodward, Superintendent – Mead School District 354; Ben Small, Superintendent – Central Valley School District; Kyle Rydell, Superintendent – West Valley School District #363; Kelly Shea, Superintendent – East Valley School District #361; and Robert Roettger, Superintendent – Cheney Public Schools,
The Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Strategy Committee Benton/Franklin County Members includes:
William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney; Keith Weis, DEA Special Agent in Charge; Mark Haigh, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge; Korey Bearden, DEA Supervisor; Stephanie Van Marter, Assistant United States Attorney; Peter Orth, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent – Yakima/Tri-Cities; Dr. Amy Person, Health Officer – Benton-Franklin Health District; Dave Zabell, City Manager – City of Pasco; Marie Mosley, City Manager – City of Kennewick; Cindy Reents, City Manager – City of Richland; Chief John Bruce, Richland Police Department; Chief Ken Hohenberg, Kennewick Police Department; Chief Ken Roske, Pasco Police Department; Sheriff Jim Raymond, Franklin County; Shawn Sant, Prosecutor – Franklin County, Sheriff; Jerry Hatcher – Benton County; Andy Miller, Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long-Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office; Darcy Weisner, Superintendent – ESD 123; Dr. Traci Pierce, Superintendent – Kennewick School District; Dr. Shelley Redinger, Superintendent – Richland School District; Michelle Whitney, Superintendent – Pasco School District; Lt. Aaron Clem, Kennewick Police Department – Youth Services; Mayor Brent Gerry, City of West Richland; and Chief Ben Majetich, West Richland Police Department.