It is not an exaggeration to say that the use of illicit fentanyl has reached a crisis point in our nation, and in our state.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it is primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico. Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids. Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug.
Since October, border patrol agents have seized more than 465 pounds of fentanyl. When you consider that ingesting a tiny dose of the narcotic is likely fatal, the amount seized is enough to kill 100 million people.
Now imagine how much fentanyl actually made it across the border during that same five-month span. In fact, just this week southern Minnesota law enforcement seized roughly 45,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop.
Overdosing on fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among people ages 18-45. 100,000 Americans died from this cause in 2021, and illegal fentanyl is responsible for over 80% of those deaths. We have not been spared locally in this catastrophe either, as several Hastings residents have died in the past couple of years due to a fentanyl overdose.
At the State Capitol this week, I was pleased to participate in a Faces of Fentanyl event.
Organized by parents who have lost their children to this illicit drug, they are urging state lawmakers to take action in the hope of saving lives. They are favoring two separate proposals. The first would ensure Narcan – which is a medicine that rapidly reverses and opioid overdose – is available in every school. The second would increase the penalties for those who possess fentanyl and distribute it.
It’s clear the fentanyl problem is not going away and that action must be taken. Its worth noting that we have a great local partner in this battle, as the United Way of Hastings has done fantastic work towards building awareness for the fentanyl problem and providing resources to combat it. Unfortunately, the organization alone can only do so much. It’s time for state government to take action as well, and I look forward to supporting solutions to combat this crisis. My thanks to the organizers of the Faces of Fentanyl gathering this week for bringing their concerns to St. Paul.
As part of National Caregivers Day last Friday, I was pleased to join other local leaders in visiting Benedictine Living Community in Hastings to learn about the challenges being faced in long-term care and ideas for solutions.
They include focusing on ways to increase the number of people who choose caregiving as a career, providing rate increases for nursing homes, and paying caregivers the wages they deserve.
We were also able to visit with a number of residents and hear their stories.
Thanks to all who organized the event. I look forward to visiting again in the very near future, hopefully with good news from the Capitol that we are making progress on helping the industry to make care more affordable for our seniors.