Sioux Falls agencies highlight fentanyl dangers

‘You don’t get to make a second mistake with fentanyl.’
Fentanyl pills
Fentanyl pills(DEA)
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 11:56 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Ahead of National Fentanyl Awareness Day May 9, Sioux Falls leaders and parents who have lost loved ones to fentanyl spoke of the drug’s risks Monday.

Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead called attention to a one-year DEA investigation called Operation Last Mile. Results of the investigation were released Friday and focused on two Mexican drug cartels responsible for the “vast majority” of the fentanyl in the U.S.

“The uncontrolled flow of fentanyl and meth across our southwest border is what’s impacting Minnehaha County and Sioux Falls,” Sheriff Milstead said.

According to Sheriff Milstead, the cartels use social media — primarily Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat — to coordinate logistics and reach out to victims.

In the one-year investigation of these two cartels, 3,337 arrests were made. Additionally, 44 million fentanyl pills, 6,500 pounds of fentanyl powder, over 91,000 pounds of methamphetamine and 8,497 firearms were seized.

Milstead stated that officials have seen an improvement in drug-related deaths locally, but the numbers are still too high. In 2022, 26 people lost their lives to drug overdoses in Minnehaha County — eight of these deaths involved fentanyl.

Angela Kennecke is the founder of Emily’s Hope, a nonprofit working to end the overdose epidemic. She echoes the sentiment that despite the downward trend, the number of overdose deaths is alarming.

In the five years since Kennecke lost her 21-year-old daughter Emily to fentanyl poisoning, fentanyl-related deaths have gone up 300 percent nationally.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic,” Kennecke said. “It has to come through awareness, through education and prevention.”

Among the efforts coordinated by Emily’s Hope, the organization is partnering with The Link to distribute fentanyl testing strips throughout the community.

Jon Thum said that there is reason to be hopeful.

Trends from 2021 to 2022 showed a 27% decrease in fatal overdoses locally. Trends already from 2022 to 2023 are similar — these downward trends defy nationwide trends.

“It’s a community-wide approach,” Thum said. The community is alert to the dangers of drugs because of teachers, parents and organizations like Emily’s Hope.

Thum highlighted the importance of families, law enforcement, and nonprofits collaborating to tackle the overdose epidemic.

“You don’t get to make a second mistake with fentanyl,” Thum said.