Fentanyl overdoses and law enforcement seizures are increasing at an alarming rate in Montana.
In an effort to protect Montana communities from fentanyl and strengthen the border, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) is asking Congressional leadership to incorporate the Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 record.
According to Tester, the bill he is co-sponsoring would require the Department of Homeland Security, along with other relevant agencies, to research and develop technology and strategies specifically aimed at combating and detecting illegal fentanyl before it can be smuggled into the United States .
“The problem with drugs, and fentanyl is one of the worst, is that it just destroys families. And when you destroy families, you destroy communities,” Tester told The Voice. “This stuff comes in and your cost of everything goes up because crime rises, abuse rises and families are torn apart.”
The Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act would allocate $20 million to develop new technology to identify and detect illegal fentanyl being smuggled into the United States, targeting counterfeit pills and illegal pill presses by non-intrusive and Improve other visual screening technologies and strengthen data-driven targeting to increase fentanyl seizure rates.
“Fentanyl use has increased sharply in Montana over the past five years, and in addition to making sure our state and law enforcement agencies are fully equipped to combat this problem, it is critical that we do our best to address the fentanyl trade.” stop the source,” Tester said.
At the local level in Three Forks, Tester said the problem with a freeway flying through your community is that there suddenly is access to fentanyl.
According to Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer, several cases of fentanyl are recorded in his office each week.
“It is here. You must educate your children; You need to educate your family members not to touch this stuff. We’re seeing an absolute uptick in fentanyl and opiates here, and they’re directly associated with the southern border,” Springer said.
FENTANYL IN MONTANA
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said earlier this year there was no question that fentanyl was now the biggest threat to public safety in Montana.
“I have dedicated additional resources to the fight against drugs and crime in Montana and will continue my efforts alongside other law enforcement agencies to protect our communities,” he said.
The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) task forces, which include the Montana Department of Justice’s Narcotics Bureau and the State Highway Patrol’s criminal interdiction teams, seized 61,000 dosage units in 2021, according to a press release from the State of Montana Newsroom, according to The Number through August 30, 2022 is over 137,000, nearly double the fentanyl seizures in the previous three years combined. The press release also states that deaths from fentanyl have increased by 1100% since 2017.
US Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) has repeatedly addressed the Treasure State’s fentanyl crisis with massive concern for the southern border.
“Fentanyl is the leading cause of death among young adults nationwide and the greatest threat to public safety in Montana. The fentanyl crisis tearing our communities apart is the result of Biden’s wide-open southern border. We must act swiftly and meaningfully to combat this epidemic, which includes taking action against the criminals who are spreading it,” Daines said.
The longtime senator also wants to hold CEOs of social media giants accountable for their role in the fentanyl crisis.
In September, Daines and a group of fellow senators wrote a letter to the CEOs of Instagram, TikTok, Snap Inc. and YouTube. The letter asked for answers about what they are doing to curb the drug epidemic to prevent the sale of fentanyl-laced pills to teenagers and young adults on their platforms.
“We are writing to you today regarding reports that use of your social media platforms has been linked to the sale of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills which have caused the deaths of teenagers and young adults across the country. In light of the devastating rise in drug overdose deaths in the United States, particularly those related to fentanyl, we are asking for more information on the steps your companies are taking to protect children and address illicit drug sales on your platforms,” the senators wrote . “Social media platforms like yours provide a convenient place for traders to anonymously and discreetly sell these fake pills to a young audience. With 4 out of 10 of these pills containing a lethal dose of fentanyl, more and more of these online transactions are ending in tragedy.”
In late October, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Butte-Silver Bow executive JP Gallagher issued a fentanyl and opioid crisis statement. The statement was developed after a roundtable discussion with the Butte Township Fentanyl Action Team.
Gianforte also discussed the records of fentanyl seizures in Montana during an August press conference attended by Daines, US Representative Matt Rosendale, Knudsen and Springer.
“Fentanyl-related activity is at levels never seen before, impacting communities across Montana,” Gianforte said.
The governor also discussed the importance of treatment for those struggling with fentanyl or other substances.
“Treatment and prevention programs for drug use are among the best defenses we have against the fentanyl crisis,” the governor said. “And I want people to know — if you know someone who is caught up in addiction, there are services that can help them. Contact us and we will connect him,” said Gianforte.
Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and Knudsen discussed the rise in overdose deaths in Montana during Red Ribbon Week in October.
“A pill can kill. As illegal fentanyl flows across the border and into Montana, it’s more important than ever for parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who has contact with school-age children to talk to them about how to avoid fentanyl and the importance of staying drug-free,” said Knudsen.
Discussing the challenges of drug use by college students, Arntzen said Montana’s students are resilient despite having experienced challenges in recent years.
“One of my key initiatives as Superintendent was Montana Hope, which focuses on family and community engagement. I am confident that with educated awareness, our students will strive to make healthy choices,” she said.