Magic Valley roundtable discusses impact of meth, fentanyl

In 2021, drug overdose deaths hit a record high, causing one American to die every five minutes
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:44 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — In 2021, drug overdose deaths hit a record high, according to preliminary CDC data. Their numbers suggest one American dies as a result of an overdose every five minutes.

It is a trend from which Idaho is not exempt. There was an over 20% rise in drug overdose deaths in the state last year, with over 60% of those deaths attributed to opioids, including fentanyl.

A Wednesday roundtable among state and community leaders in Twin Falls included conversations between those impacted by fentanyl.

Statistics for the city of Twin Falls shared during this discussion highlight the magnitude of the issue.

“In 2021, we had 18 overdose deaths with 11 attributed to fentanyl,” said Captain Brent Wright of the Twin Falls Police Department. “Our fentanyl deaths are going up, our overdose deaths are as well.”

This problem is not restricted to the streets either. Members of law enforcement said they have seen drug dealers get arrested on purpose in order to deal drugs in the jails.

“We’re listening to phone calls, we’re listening to interviews that we do with people that are coming out of our jail,” said Captain Scott Bishop of the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Office. “It’s not just our jail, it’s every jail in the state of Idaho.”

As a result, Bishop suggested investments be made into prison security body scanners, which detect when individuals attempt to smuggle drugs inside body cavities. A body scanner was installed in the Canyon County Jail earlier this year, as a measure to reduce overdoses among inmates and protect deputies from drug exposure.

Overdose cases are becoming so frequent in Twin Falls County that there are days when the prosecuting attorney’s office is overwhelmed.

“On Monday morning, we had 11 custody screenings,” said Jethelyn Harrington with the Twin Falls Prosecutors Office. “Were all of those fentanyl, no they were not. They were different drugs. There were, I think five on Friday. On Wednesday, I believe there were six.”

As the frequency of fentanyl overdoses rises, so does the number of community members personally impacted. Some took time during this roundtable to detail their last moments with loved ones.

“They were on fentanyl medical use, accidental overdoses. I picked one up off the floor twice,” said attendee Douglas Scott. “Third time, she didn’t make it.”

This was the final regional roundtable for Governor Brad Little’s drug initiative “Operation Esto Perpetua.”

A Citizens Action Group will take notes from all of the public meetings into account in order to provide a report, and then work in conjunction with law enforcement with the goal of making Idaho safer.

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