MatForce continues to warn about dangers of fentanyl; 7 in 10 pills seized contains lethal dose of killer drug
Seven out of every 10 pills seized contains a lethal dose of fentanyl, countrywide, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA issued a public alert warning regarding the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
This coincides with the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate the public about the dangers of fake pills, urging Americans to consume medications only prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.
The Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), a grant funded initiative, reports that more than 50% of fentanyl pills coming into the U.S. is making its way through Arizona.
“We’re the main thoroughfare of the drugs coming in and going to other states,” said Merilee Fowler, executive director of MatForce, which is Yavapai County’s substance abuse prevention coalition, located in Prescott Valley.
Despite high numbers being reported statewide, so far in 2023, only one young person died from fentanyl, and he was 18 and lived on a Yavapai reservation. And zero have died in the Quad Cities 18 or younger, Fowler said.
She added that the total number of accidental drug overdose deaths went down in Yavapai County from 2020 — 83 deaths to 2021 — 74 deaths, and to 2022 — 68 deaths. The number of deaths involving fentanyl went from 42 in 2020, to 44 in 2021, to 41 in 2022.
And in 2020, there were five teenagers, 18 and younger who died of a fentanyl overdose. Fowler added that in 2021 and 2022, no teenagers 18 and younger died of an accidental overdose in Yavapai County. She attributes this steady decline to the constant education of students.
A Killer Among Us, is a school curriculum paid for through funding by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which MatForce has used to educate thousands of students throughout Yavapai County. And a statewide campaign is in the works as well, Fowler added.
“It’s important to constantly tell kids and have them understand the risk fentanyl or any drug has that goes in their mouth, and with fentanyl, the tiniest dose can be deadly,” Fowler said. “In Yavapai County, overdoses went down in 2021 and even further in 2022.”
James Tobin, section manager of substance abuse and mental health programs for Yavapai County Community Health Services, added: “Prevention is the key element and police can absolutely play a pivotal role.”
Youth drug use is associated with risk, Fowler added. “If a kid perceives a drug to be dangerous, they’re less likely to try it,” she said.
Fentanyl affects whole communities
The first time fentanyl really hit home in Prescott Valley was when Jake Morales and his best friend, Gunner Bundrick, both 19, died of an overdose, on Nov. 3, 2018. Morales, a graduate of Bradshaw Mountain High School, is the brother-in-law of Mayor Kell Palguta.
“This was the first time fentanyl really struck home and the community became aware of it. The drug has really taken over Arizona and as you see from the cost per pill that says a lot of how much of a supply there is,” Palguta said.
Fentanyl averages from $3 to $8 a pill in Yavapai County. The range in cost comes down to buying in small amounts, which will cost more, and buying in bulk, will cost less, said Lt. Joshua Brazell of Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT), a countywide entity of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO).
And statewide average costs for fentanyl range between $2 and $10 a pill retail on average depending on how many pills are purchased, Brazell said. For a small amount of cases and if you purchase a very large bulk you can get under $1 a pill.
Prescott Valley Vice Mayor Lori Hunt extended her outrage over the national numbers: “I am outraged that when we started our illicit fentanyl fight the ratio of fatal pills on the street was three in 10 and now exactly three years later DEA is reporting that seven in 10 are fatal. We have done so much educating and will continue. I can’t praise MatForce enough for all they do to save lives,” Vice Mayor Lori Hunt said.
Despite the drop of overdoses, local law enforcement entities continue to drive home the importance of awareness.
“This drug fentanyl is so deadly and dangerous. It is encompassed upon all of us law enforcement and community working together to prioritize the removal of this drug from our society by all legal means available. The time is now for our community to stop the death and addiction caused by this deadly drug,” Prescott Valley Police Chief Bob Ticer said.
Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes said PANT continues to see the dangers, effects and unfortunately the loss of life from fentanyl use in Yavapai County, just like jurisdictions across Arizona and throughout the U.S.
“We will use all available resources to combat those who want to sell this insidious drug in Yavapai County. We will also continue to work closely with partners such as MatForce to reach out to the youth of the county to explain how dangerous fentanyl is. Truly one pill can kill and no loss of life to fentanyl is acceptable,” Rhodes added.
Anyone wanting to report any drug activity is urged to call Yavapai Silent Witness at 1-800-923-3232 or visit https://yavapaisw.com/. You never have to leave your name.
Reach Debra Winters by email at email@example.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1111.
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