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'This is all out war:' Ky. Attorney General seeking local solutions for national fentanyl scourge

Kentucky Attorney General's Office

Kentucky Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor Daniel Cameron says President Joe Biden's administration has failed to secure the Southern border and is responsible for the massive influx of illicit fentanyl into the United States. The opioid, cheaply manufactured in China and trafficked through Mexico into the U.S., is now the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18-45.

"The administration is more focused on ideology that threatens the safety of our communities and increases the intensity of the opioid crisis," Cameron said Monday in Franklin. "Our only recourse has been to sue the Biden administration because of its failure at the Southern border."

Kentucky has joined 20 conservative states in a lawsuit to stop the Department of Homeland Security from implementing a new program that uses Immigration Parole Power to allow a surge of illegal immigration into the U.S.

Earlier this month, Cameron sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice to take immediate steps to contain the fentanyl crisis.

In February, Cameron sent a letter to the White House asking the federal government to declare Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. He said designating cartels as terrorist groups will give state and federal law enforcement agencies more power to freeze assets, deny entry to cartel members, and allow prosecutors to pursue harsher punishments for those providing material support to cartels.

Last year, Cameron urged the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. That would require the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Department of Defense to coordinate a response with other agencies as opposed to only treating fentanyl as a narcotics-related problem.

In the meantime, Cameron is holding a series of Operation Fight Fentanyl Forumsaround the state.

At an event in Simpson County on Monday, Cameron held a roundtable with first responders, law enforcement, prosecutors, and community partners to discuss possible local solutions to what is now the nation's the leading cause of overdose deaths.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fentanyl was involved in over 70% of the state’s 2,250 overdose deaths in 2021.

One of the bills still waiting for final passage in the Kentucky General Assembly would remove fentanyl test strips from state prohibitions on drug paraphernalia.

The measure cleared the state House and awaits a vote by the Senate in the last two days of the session starting Mar. 29.

Fentanyl is often mixed with counterfeit pills, causing overdoes. Test strips can detect the deadly opioid in drug samples.

Julie Hofmans of Louisville lost her son to an overdose when he took a Xanax pill, unaware it was laced with fentanyl.

She says legalizing test strips may provide another tool for saving lives, but Hofmans thinks more education is critical, especially for youth.

“We’re saying there’s these strips you can buy and you can check the pills before you take them. And we have the other option of Narcan that will save you if you take drugs," Hofmans told WKU Public Radio. "Really what I want to do is tell children not to take drugs unless they’re prescribed with your name on the bottle.”

Hofmans spoke at the attorney general's fentanyl roundtable in Simpson County on Monday.

Cameron, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor this year, continues to hold public forum across the state in response to the fentanyl crisis. The next one takes place on Wednesday in Greenup County.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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