#StopFentanylNow campaign year in review
Fentanyl continues to saturate the black market
On Nov. 3, 2018, 19-year-olds Gunner Bundrick and Jake Morales were found unresponsive in the Bundrick family’s Prescott Valley home.
Paramedics responded to a 911 call, but it was too late. Both young men had died sometime earlier that day.
Autopsy reports indicated fentanyl, a highly-potent synthetic opioid, was the culprit.
An investigation revealed the boys had somehow come in contact with the substance, likely through ingesting “mimic pills,” pills made to look like prescription pills such as oxycodone or Xanax, but actually manufactured illegally and laced with fentanyl.
Shortly after the incident, The Daily Courier pledged to do its part to help curtail the spread of this poison by starting a #StopFentanylNow campaign.
The family-owned business promised to publish the booking photos of anyone caught selling fentanyl on the front page of the newspaper. It also donated $10,000 to Yavapai Silent Witness in an effort to help take these dealers and their drugs off the streets.
It has been one year since the campaign started, the Courier is taking the opportunity to update the community on where the local battle on fentanyl currently stands.
FENTANYL TRENDS, ARRESTS
So far in 2019, the Yavapai County drug taskforce Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) has seized 1,260 fentanyl pills and 15 grams of fentanyl powder. These seizures have resulted in the arrest of 21 people on fentanyl-related charges.
This compares to 474 pills, 4 grams of powder and 20 arrests in 2018.
While the prevalence of the drug appears to be increasing based on these seizure statistics, the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Yavapai County is so far lower this year.
According to PANT’s records, there were six overdose deaths due to fentanyl in 2018 and two so far in 2019.
As was the case in 2018, fentanyl pills are still primarily coming in the form of blue M30 mimic pills, but some other forms are beginning to increase in circulation.
“We’ve seen a lot more of the mimic Xanax, which are white and they look like regular Xanax bars,” PANT Commander Nate Auvenshine said.
Different colored pills have also been seen in other parts of the state, he said.
National reports have indicated that a lot of fentanyl has been making its way into the U.S. from other countries such as China via the mail.
Auvenshine said PANT will occasionally see this, but given Arizona is a border state, the bulk of the fentanyl they’ve encountered was chemically manufactured in Mexico and physically transported across the border.
“The supply is so readily available that people don’t necessarily have to order it from China or other nations to get it,” Auvenshine said. “It’s just pouring over the border in these pill forms. I don’t think we’re going to see that decrease anytime soon because the profit margin is so high on fentanyl.”
TIPS TO SILENT WITNESS
Since Dec. 1, 2018, Yavapai Silent Witness has received 40 tips regarding fentanyl activity in Yavapai County, said Chris Wilson, Silent Witness’s director.
Such tips resulted in the closure of six fentanyl cases, some of which included the arrest of multiple suspected fentanyl dealers, he said.
This compares to only one fentanyl-related tip on record before December 2018.
“It’s a big deal,” Wilson said. “We’re getting a lot of actionable tips. Tips we can really follow up on.”
While many of those tips have been eligible for cash rewards, Wilson said many tipsters specifically say they don’t want to be rewarded for the information.
“There’s a large percentage of the community that’s not interested in rewards,” Wilson said. “They’re interested in cleaning up the community.”
That said, there is still plenty of money being offered by Silent Witness specifically for fentanyl tips. A direct tip that leads to the arrest of a verified fentanyl dealer becomes eligible for a $1,000 cash reward. To submit a tip, call 1-800-932-3232 or visit www.p3tips.com/tipform.aspx?ID=979#.
As is the organization’s primary policy, a caller’s identity remains anonymous throughout the process and you’re never required to provide your name in order to receive a cash reward.
Those wishing to donate to Silent Witness to boost local reward money for tips leading to fentanyl dealer arrests may do so by calling Wilson at 928-777-7266 or sending the donation to Yavapai Silent Witness, P.O. Box 2524, Prescott, AZ 86302. Within the next couple of months, there will also be an option to donate through PayPal on Silent Witness’s website: http://yavapaisw.com.
FENTANYL BILL BEING REINTRODUCED
In 2018, a bill was introduced in the Arizona legislature that required strict mandatory minimum prison sentences for the manufacturing or distribution of heroin, fentanyl, fentanyl mimetic substances and carfentanil, a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
Though backed by Arizona law enforcement agencies such as the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, the bill ended up dying in the Senate after narrowly passing through the House.
A renewed effort to pass that same bill has surfaced, at the request of The Daily Courier and Prescott News Network, as more attention has been given to the opioid crisis in Arizona and the rest of the U.S.
“It’s really more of a community approach this time,” Yavapai County Attorney Shiela Polk said. “When we pushed for it two years ago, it was viewed as a law enforcement bill. Our approach this time is our community wants this and our communities across Arizona want it.”
Arizona Rep. Steve Pierce for District 1, has agreed to sponsor the bill, with direct support from Rep. Noel Campbell and Senate President Karen Fann.
Pierce said it’s difficult to say how the bill will fare, but he’s cautiously optimistic things will be different this time around. “Just because it failed before doesn’t mean it will fail again,” Pierce said. “Attitudes change. People change. I think it’s lifesaving and something that’s needed.”
Kit Atwell, publisher for The Daily Courier and Prescott News Network, extended her thanks to the law enforcement officers, prosecutors and community leaders who have helped make a dent in the flow of fentanyl.
“Their efforts and hard work are invaluable. This is a call to action for our community, for our children. We appreciate the strides that have been made,” she said. “At the same time, our work is not done.”
Members of the community can lend their support, not only through tips and donations as mentioned, but also by contacting lawmakers and encouraging approval of the new bill. The phone number for Gov. Doug Ducey is 800-253-0883, and the general phone number to the legislature is 800-352-8404.
You also may write to our legislators at 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007. The local delegation’s email addresses are: Sen. Karen Fann, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rep. Noel Campbell, email@example.com; and Rep. Steve Pierce, firstname.lastname@example.org.