Spokane, Wash. – On Tuesday,Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) hosted a roundtable at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the ongoing fentanyl crisis and the impact it’s having on communities across the region.
She was joined by Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward, local law enforcement agencies, community and tribal leaders working to combat the crisis, and family advocates who have been impacted by fentanyl. A full list of attendees is below.
Mayor Nadine Woodward, City of Spokane
Traci Couture, Spokane Alliance for Fentanyl Education (S.A.F.E.)
Marsha Malsam, SAFE & Rayce Rudeen Foundation
Molly Cain, Mother & Parent Advocate
Debi Testa, Mother & Parent Advocate
Chief Craig Meidl, Spokane Police Department
Assistant Chief Sean Walter, City of Spokane Valley Police Department
Chief Gary Jinkins, Washington State University Police
Undersheriff Mike Kittilstved, Spokane County
Sheriff Mark Crider, Walla Walla County
Sheriff Brad Manke, Stevens County
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Jeffrey Dinise, United States Border Patrol
Chairman Jarred-Michael Erickson, Colville Tribes
Marty Raap, Reservation Attorney for Colville Tribes
Secretary Monica Tonasket, Spokane Tribe
Afton Servas, Kalispel Tribe
The group discussed how fentanyl poisoning is now the number one cause of death for people 18-49. This is partly because illicit drug manufacturers are diverting precursor chemicals from China and shipping them to Mexico where cartels are producing mass quantities of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances. These substances are then smuggled across the southern border, through Arizona and California, and into Eastern Washington.
Last month, Cathy helped pass the HALT Fentanyl Act – legislation she led through the House Energy and Commerce Committee – with strong bipartisan support (289-133). This legislation will permanently schedule fentanyl related substances under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act and ensure law enforcement has the tools they need to keep these extremely lethal and dangerous drugs off the streets of Eastern Washington.
In Washington state, overdose deaths have increased by more than 108 percent since 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s the second largest increase in the United States. Spokane was also named one of eleven crisis spots for fentanyl by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after the Spokane Police Department took 40,000 fentanyl pills off the streets in a single bust last year.
It’s time for change, which is why Cathy is bringing the community together to build a more secure future for every family in Eastern Washington.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Tuesday held a round table on the importance of combating the flood of fentanyl into the Inland Northwest, flanked by city leaders, tribal representatives and mothers who lost children to overdoses.
The congresswoman’s HALT Fentanyl Act passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in May. It permanently designates fentanyl-related drugs and similar substances as a Schedule I controlled substance, one that has a high potential for abuse and no current medical value.
Spokane was highlighted as a crisis center last year, when seizures of fentanyl rose 1,098% in the county. That led the Drug Enforcement Administration to choose Spokane as one of its 11 target sites for the Operation Engage initiative, with the goal to better connect with schools and community organizations.
A large talking point in the hour-long discussion was the need for more prevalent drug education in our regional school curriculums.
“There was a real focus on making sure that we’re doing more in our schools and educating our kids,” Rep. McMorris Rodgers said. “The importance of supporting local law enforcement and resource officers and the role they play in helping raise awareness and make sure people are aware of the threat.”
McMorris Rodgers said drug smuggling at the border is putting Washingtonians at risk.
“The continued increase in the amount of fentanyl is coming into the United States, making its way to places like Colville and Spokane,” the congresswoman said.
McMorris Rodgers said she wanted to hear from different perspectives and stakeholders on how to address the fentanyl crisis, which she said is not a partisan issue, but a human one.
She highlighted her efforts to pass a bill in the House that would increase penalties for trafficking fentanyl and provide more resources for prevention and treatment. She also said she supports more funding for research and development of non-addictive painkillers and alternative therapies.
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