Coordinated Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Initiative for the Tri-Cities Communities Announced | USAO-EDWA

Kennewick, Wash., – Today, United States Attorney William Hyslop and DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis announced a coordinated Opioid Fentanyl Outreach initiative by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, community leaders, prevention specialists and school superintendents. They were joined at the announcement by Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Dr. Traci Pierce, Superintendent of the Kennewick School District.

The Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Project addresses the public safety and public health threats caused by the increasing influx of deadly fentanyl into the Tri-Cities and throughout the Eastern District of Washington. This initiative has a multi-pronged approach with the focus on educating our communities and directing resources through community outreach and prevention efforts.

United States Attorney Hyslop stated, “Our communities, our residents, our parents, and our youth are all faced with the growing and continued influx of deadly fentanyl into Eastern Washington. Very small amounts in a fentanyl-laced pill can kill a person. We are now seeing it here in the Tri-Cities, and sadly, we are now witnessing deaths in our high school and young adult populations. Dangerous counterfeit pills killing Americans are manufactured in mass quantities by drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico. In response, law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels have increased efforts to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking groups for importing and distributing this lethal narcotic in the Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Yakima areas. However, this is much greater than just a law enforcement issue; it is now a critical community issue that everyone must address.”

Keith Weis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated, “Now, it is more important than ever that we all come together as a call for action to save lives. Per the CDC, in 2019 more than 71,000 lives were lost in the United States as a result of drug overdoses. Of this number, approximately 51% of the deaths can be attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Alarmingly, DEA seizures of fentanyl in Eastern Washington have increased almost 200% over the 2019 to 2020 time period. A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary based on an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors. Additionally, fentanyl can be lethal when it is airborne or even when touched and absorbed through the skin.”

As part of the Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Project, community, law enforcement, and educational leaders have come together in Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Yakima to address this issue. Plans are underway with media engagement pieces, town halls and presentations. On October 7th, 2020, DEA Diversion in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services held a virtual conference with hundreds of health care professionals in Washington providing information and support during the pandemic and raising awareness on the ongoing opioid crisis.

On October 12, 2020, a 12 week media awareness campaign was launched in the Eastern District of Washington, “You Can Save Lives” knowing the warning signs of counterfeit fentanyl pills keeps your loved ones and the community safe. Viewers can obtain a variety of resources at

https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/ https://vimeo.com/user96937699/download/469641512/a59c2c8768

Community forums and parent discussions are being organized. School Superintendents throughout the region are collaborating on educational lessons and presentations, with a focus on student involvement to spread the message. A special video about the fentanyl problem is being produced and will be available.

Another resource available to educators and the community is DEA Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention awareness program. Red Ribbon Week is celebrated annually October 23-31. This year’s theme is “Be Happy, Be Brave, Be Drug Free.” You can learn more about DEA Red Ribbon and ways to get involved through programs and contests by visiting https://www.dea.gov/redribbon Other outreach efforts are being added as they are planned.

This Saturday, October 24, 2020, National Drug Take Back Day will be recognized. The Tri-Cities is sponsoring socially distanced “Drug Take Back” sites from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.. More information about Drug Take Back Day and locations in the Tri-Cities are available at https://deatakeback.com

The Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Strategy Committee Benton/Franklin County Members include:

William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney

Keith Weis, DEA Special Agent in Charge

Mark Haigh, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge

Korey Bearden, DEA Supervisor

Stephanie Van Marter, Assistant United States Attorney

Peter Orth, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent – Yakima/Tri-Cities Resident Agency

Dr. Amy Person, Health Officer – Benton-Franklin Health District

Dave Zabell, City Manager – City of Pasco

Marie Mosley, City Manager – City of Kennewick

Cindy Reents, City Manager – City of Richland

Chief John Bruce, Richland Police Department

Chief Ken Hohenberg, Kennewick Police Department

Chief Ken Roske, Pasco Police Department

Sheriff Jim Raymond, Franklin County

Shawn Sant, Prosecutor – Franklin County

Sheriff Jerry Hatcher – Benton County

Andy Miller, Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long-Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office

Darcy Weisner, Superintendent – ESD 123

Dr. Traci Pierce, Superintendent – Kennewick School District

Dr. Shelley Redinger, Superintendent – Richland School District

Michelle Whitney, Superintendent – Pasco School District

Lt. Aaron Clem, Kennewick Police Department – Youth Services

Mayor Brent Gerry, City of West Richland

Chief Ben Majetich, West Richland Police Department

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