AG Knudsen: Authorities in Montana continue record-breaking pace of fentanyl seizures
HELENA – Despite record-breaking amounts of illicit fentanyl being taken off Montana streets, the drug continues to take a toll on individuals, families, and communities in the state. Attorney General Austin Knudsen is building on his fight against fentanyl as he partners with Voices for Awareness, a national non-profit raising awareness of the dangers of illicit fentanyl and counterfeit drugs across the state.
Anti-drug task forces in Montana seized twice as much fentanyl – 155,000 dosage units – in the first three quarters of 2022 than they did in the last four years combined. Meanwhile, opioid-related deaths, drug overdoses, and emergency calls for opioid overdoses in the state are also on the rise as the Biden administration continues to ignore the harm its failed border policies are inflicting on communities across the nation.
“Illicit fentanyl is still the biggest public safety threat in our state – no question. It’s killing Montanans, destroying families, and wreaking havoc on communities. The additional resources that we’ve put toward fighting drugs is making an impact, but the damage will continue to increase until the Biden administration abandons its disastrous border policies and stops the flow of fentanyl from Mexico,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “With overdoses and deaths increasing, it’s more important than ever to educate people – especially young Montanans on the dangers of fentanyl. I’m grateful to have Voices of Awareness here to help us in those efforts.”
“A fentanyl-related death in America occurs approximately every six minutes. Illicit fentanyl is a national security crisis and public health emergency. We need all hands in deck,” Andrea Thomas, founder of Voices for Awareness and Facing Fentanyl Now, said. “Attorney General Knudsen’s efforts have put Montana at the forefront in the fight against deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl and the changing drug landscape. We brought together a wide range of tribal leaders, educators, law enforcement, and community leaders to alert people to the dangers of illicit fentanyl and give them the tools to further spread awareness.”
Through September 30, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) task forces seized 154,986 fentanyl dosage units in Montana. This number includes 22,031 fentanyl dosage units combined with 29.3 fentanyl pounds converted to dosage units. In all of 2021, a combined 60,577 combined dosage units. In 2020, that combined amount was 6,663 and in 2019 it was 1,900.
The statistics come from the RMHIDTA Montana task forces and do not include all drugs seized by all law enforcement in the state. The Montana Department of Justice’s narcotics bureau and state Highway Patrol criminal interdiction teams, under the purview of Attorney General Knudsen, manage and participate in these task forces.
Emergency responses for opioid overdoses are also on the upswing. Through the third quarter of 2022, there were 811 opioid overdose-related 911 responses – an average of 90 calls per month and up 28 percent from last year. Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, was administered in 336 (41 percent) of the responses.
Preliminary data from public safety and health entities show there have been 987 known drug overdoses this year as of November 15, compared to 977 in all of 2021. Of those overdoses, at least 141 were fatal. An official determination is still pending on several cases, which means this year’s total has likely surpassed last year’s 143 fatal overdoses.
According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths increased 30 percent from 2019 to 2020 in the United States and are now a leading cause of death for young adults. The rate of overdose deaths increased 49 percent among Native American people ages 25 to 44 years old. Fentanyl is primarily driving the increase.
RMHIDTA task forces have taken 172.6 pounds of methamphetamine off the road through the third quarter of 2022, along with 7 pounds of heroin, and 12.4 pounds of cocaine. They have also already matched last year’s 375 weapon seizures.
In August, Attorney General Knudsen declared fentanyl the top public safety threat in Montana. He continues to fight the Biden administration’s disastrous border policies in federal court, engaging in multiple lawsuits to compel it to enforce existing immigration laws and secure the border. He also called on the Biden administration earlier this year to take a tougher stance toward China and Mexico against the influx of fentanyl and to classify fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.
To fight the problem in Montana, Attorney General Knudsen has increased the number of Montana Department of Justice narcotics and major case agents, added a statewide drug intelligence officer who assists local law enforcement and public health agencies, and spearheaded a grant program that helped deploy two dozen drug detecting K9s around the state. One of those K9s has helped take 400 fentanyl pills off the street since the beginning of the year.
About Voices for Awareness:
Voices for Awareness Foundation is a licensed and registered nonprofit organization bringing awareness to illicit fentanyl, counterfeit drugs and related self-harm.