Kennewick officials unveil Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Project in an effort to save lives

KENNEWICK, Wash. – A different kind of health crisis is emerging during this pandemic.

Federal, state and local officials announced on Thursday what they are doing to combat the use of illegal fentanyl circulating in our communities. During a press conference at the Kennewick Police Department, officials spoke on the importance of the new interagency Opioid Fentanyl Outreach Project.

“The point of this is in 2020 we seized over 11 kilos of fentanyl in Eastern Washington, and that equates to more than 5.5 million doses of fentanyl,” said Keith Weis, Special Agent in Charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid product and for years it has been prescribed by physicians legally for pain relief, but it’s been also been distributed as a street drug. Officials say the drug is being trafficked in our area on a daily basis.

“We are announcing today a very large opioid and fentanyl outreach project and we want to raise awareness in Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick and throughout Benton and Franklin counties about this problem,” said United States Attorney William D. Hyslop, “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… However, this is much greater than just a law enforcement issue; it is now a critical community issue that everyone must address.”

According to Weis, per the CDC, in 2019 more than 71,000 lives were lost in the United States as a result of drug overdoses, and approximately 51% of those deaths were attributed to fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

“It’s dangerous for people that have a tendency to dabble in drugs, it’s dangerous for the community when violence builds over as a result of these drugs, and it’s also a danger for our police officers that have to come in contact with these various drugs they deal with,” said Chief Ken Hohenberg of the Kennewick Police Department.

This Saturday, October 24 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. 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 www.deatakeback.com