DEA Museum to Hold Lecture Series ‘Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy: Smuggling Stories’

The Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center will present the next installment of its Lecture Series, “Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy: Smuggling Stories,” at 1 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. CDT) on June 17.

Join host Josh Edmundson, the DEA Museum’s Curator of Education, for a live, virtual discussion with DEA experts about drug smuggling, a fundamental element of all major drug trafficking organizations’ business models and a critical component of DEA’s work.

Smuggling Stories investigates one of the pillars of DEA’s Kingpin Strategy: disrupting smuggling routes and discovering and seizing shipments of illicit narcotics, weapons, cash, and other goods. The Kingpin Strategy focuses on removing the delivery capabilities of drug trafficking organizations to prevent their products from further distribution in the United States.

The Lecture Series will feature retired Special Agent Tony Placido and Special Agent Nate Jones, who will speak about DEA’s work thwarting the efforts of international drug trafficking organizations and the unique enforcement challenge that is our Southern Border.

As part of the event, Mr. Edmundson will present additional information on smuggling artifacts using objects from the Museum’s collection.

The DEA Museum collects, preserves, and interprets the material culture and artifacts pertaining to DEA and its predecessor agencies, U.S. drug policy and enforcement of U.S. drug laws, and drug education programs. The Museum interprets its collection for the public benefit through permanent and temporary exhibits, programs, the Museum website, publications, social media, and other mediums.

This event is free and open to the public. Sign language interpretation will be provided. Reserve your free ticket at www.smuggling_stories.eventbrite.com.

WHEN: Thursday, June 17, 1 to 2:30 p.m. EDT (2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT)

WHERE: Live-streamed from DEA Headquarters

ACCESS: Streaming link will be emailed to all ticket holders

EMAIL QUESTIONS: During the event, email questions to Elizabeth.P.Thompson@usdoj.gov

CONTACT: DEA Museum (202) 307-3463, DEAMuseum@usdoj.gov or Elizabeth Thompson, Visitor Services Coordinator, Elizabeth.P.Thompson@usdoj.gov

Drug Identification – The Opioid Crisis in America

The Opioid Crisis in America is an interactive two-part course in a series of Drug Identification training modules. The other courses in this series are Depressants, Antidepressants, and Inhalants and Stimulants.

This course provides an overview of the chemical and legal classification of opioids and examines the nationa​​l epidemic of opioid abuse. It provides key information and safety measures law enforcement and criminal justice providers should know when responding to opioid related events. Community response and other evidence-based practices are also discussed.

COURSE RUN TIME: 2 HOURS

ENROLL NOW

About This Course

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, every day in America, 116 people die from an opioid overdose.[1]

As reported by the US Surgeon General in 2015, 1.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported misusing sedatives in the past year. Furthermore, 6.1 million individuals reported misusing tranquilizers such as Xanax® in the past year[1] This is especially concerning as many of these individuals will mix sedatives and/or tranquilizers with alcohol, a depressant in its own right. This risky behavior increases the potential for overdose which can occur when critical areas in the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature stop functioning.[2] This course will identify the various types of commonly abused depressants, sedatives, anti-depressants and inhalants; discuss current trends relating to these substances; examine side effects and symptoms of abuse of these substances; discuss the synergistic effects of depressants mixed with alcohol; and review common and household items used for inhalant properties.  

Part one of this course, “The Opioid Crisis in America: Overview”, discusses the differences between opiates and opioids; identifies uses of opioids, examines the overall national opioid epidemic, describes the societal impacts of opioid abuse.

Part two, “The Opioid Crisis in America: Opioid Drugs and Responses” reviews the most commonly abused prescription opioid drugs; differentiates between physical manifestations of synthetic opioids in comparison to other opioids; examines common methods of opioid injection and common paraphernalia used for ingestion; and reviews medications to reduce opioid dependence.

[1] Public Affairs. “HHS.gov/Opioids: The Prescription Drug & Heroin Overdose Epidemic.“ HHS.gov. Accessed May 03, 2018. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/

properties.  

[1] “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2016. 1-9. https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-generals-report.pdf.

Participants should expect to spend approximately 2 hours reviewing the content and resources in this course.

This tuition-free online training was developed by the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College and was originally supported by cooperative agreement 2017-CK-WX-K007 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Primary Audience

This course is ideal for all law enforcement, criminal justice professionals and service providers as well as community-policing stakeholders, including corrections professionals, court system personnel, social workers, and behavioral health/treatment providers.

DEA Launches Project Wave Break to Stop Flood of Deadly Fentanyl

DEA illustration of 2 milligrams of Fentanyl, a lethal dose in most persons.

 

Today, Tuesday April 27, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a new initiative, Project Wave Breaker, to disrupt the flow of deadly fentanyl into the United States.

Project Wave Breaker will direct interdiction, enforcement, and outreach efforts to high-impact areas to disrupt the flow of fentanyl in and around the United States. The initiative will also employ analytical intelligence assets to target the activities of Mexican transnational criminal organizations, which are the primary suppliers and distributors of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl substances throughout the United States.

“While a major entry point for fentanyl is the Southwest border, the cartels are spreading their poison into communities across the Nation,” said DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans. “Through this initiative, we’re tackling a very real public health, public safety, and national security threat, identifying the most egregious street-level networks in our communities and working our way up through the supply chain.”

The eleven divisions participating in Project Wave Breaker are credited with 85 percent of all synthetic opioids seized by the DEA in 2020. They include: Phoenix, New York, San Diego, New England, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco, Houston, and El Paso.

Mexican cartels, particularly the Sinaloa Cartel, have capitalized on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug misuse and abuse in the United States, flooding communities with illicit fentanyl and driving the record-setting rates of overdose deaths. According to the most recently published CDC provisional data, more than 87,200 people died from an overdose last year, marking the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. Deaths involving synthetic opioids increased nearly 60 percent during the same 12-month period ending September 1, 2020.

Facts about fentanyl:

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent that morphine.
  • Of counterfeit pills tested in DEA laboratories, one in four pills made with fentanyl contained a potentially lethal dose.
  • A kilogram of fentanyl can contain 500,000 potentially lethal doses. Last year, the eleven divisions participating in Project Wave Breaker seized a combined total of 2,316 kilograms of fentanyl (more than a billion potentially lethal doses).
  • The seizure of fentanyl-laced pills along the Southwest border increased more than 89 percent from January 2019 to December 2020.

Project Wave Breaker aims to reduce the amount of fentanyl coming across the Southwest border, reduce crime and violence associated with drug trafficking, and ultimately save lives by reducing the demand for illicit fentanyl.

For resources and additional information on fentanyl and other illicit drugs, visit www.dea.gov/divisions/facts-about-fentanyl.

Jefferson County Jailers Save Four Inmates in Two Days, Sheriff Says

​Female cells at the Jefferson County Jail in 2005 file photo by Wayne Crosslin St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Correctional officers in the Jefferson County jail recently stopped one suicide attempt and three opiate overdoses, the sheriff said Tuesday.

Sheriff Dave Marshak credited the work of jailers, both in a tweet and in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, saying he was prompted to recognize the employees publicly in part by the “general conversation about jail safety and jail security” that has been occurring since an inmate uprising at the St. Louis City Justice Center on Sunday night.

“I think sometimes these correctional officers do the most difficult job and they’re often underrecognized and underappreciated,” he said.

Marshak said the three overdoses Sunday night were stopped with the aid of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates. The inmates were then taken to a hospital for evaluation and have since been returned to jail, he said. “Everyone’s recovered. Everyone’s fine.”

An investigation showed that another inmate smuggled a drug into jail in a body cavity, and offered to sell it to others, Marshak said. Drugs are sometimes sold in exchange for food or other items that inmates can purchase from the commissary.

It’s believed the drug was fentanyl. The smuggler may now face new charges, he said.

Although a body scanner is used to try and prevent the smuggling of contraband into jail, Marshak said the drugs may have been hard to detect. “It was difficult to see how it was packaged in the rectum area,” he said.

If the drugs were missed by jailers, that would spark an internal investigation, he said.

The scanner has been used at the jail for two years. “We had an overdose in the past so we thought it was important to purchase it,” he said.

Although expensive, Marshak said, “if you have an incident like that in your facility, you have to look at it from a risk-management standpoint.”

Meanwhile, the suicide attempt Monday involved a woman who tried to hang herself using her pants leg, sheriff’s spokesman Grant Bissell said. Another inmate alerted officers who found her in her cell blue in the face and unresponsive, he said. They called a nurse and an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital where she was being held for a psychiatric evaluation, he said.

“It happens once or twice a year where a correctional officer will see it or be made aware of it and intervene,” Marshak said.

“We have a responsibility to maintain their health,” the sheriff said of inmates.

Story By Robert Patrick | St. Louis Today | https://www.stltoday.com/

The Lone Holdout

After Anand and Kourtney Torres, ages 41 and 29, were found dead in their Lake Ozark condo in November 2019, the community mourned the loss of the couple for months. Kourtney had been a nurse at the local hospital, and both were dedicated to coaching kids sports. Adding to the tragedy, they also left behind three young children. Nearly half a year later, the Camden County sheriff’s office revealed the cause of death: fentanyl-related overdose.

The toxicology results shocked Kourtney’s mother, Kris Benecke.

“She was so much more than just her tragic … she was about life,” she says. “She brought passion to everything. She was a nurse. I did not know her to be a drug user at all.”

Kourtney’s is the second opioid-related death in the family; Benecke’s son Justin died from a heroin overdose over a decade ago.

“I never expected it to happen once, and definitely not twice.”

It is an all-too-familiar story. In 2018, 1,132 Missourians died of opioid-related overdoses. Opioids include heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and legal prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine, morphine, and others.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Missouri ranks 14th in the country in opioid deaths, with approximately 19.6 per 100,000 people. It’s a public health crisis that everyone pays for. By the most recent estimates, the Hospital Industry Data Institute claimed that the opioid epidemic cost Missourians $12.6 billion a year, or $34.5 million every day. That breaks down even further to an astonishing $24,000 per minute. According to a report from the institute, the costs associated with the opioid epidemic include increased consumption of healthcare, law enforcement, and social services, as well as lost productivity. By the time you finish this sentence, the epidemic will have cost another $399 dollars. Most deaths are clustered around the state’s urban centers, but rural counties are not immune, either. Nearly everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by opioid addiction.

The statistics are staggering. What can be done? What should be done? These questions have plagued state lawmakers for nearly a decade.

One solution may be a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). This digital medical record system tracks patients who fill opioid prescriptions and makes that information available to healthcare providers. Its uses are multiple—for example, when patients can’t report or remember their prescriptions, doctors can refer to a PDMP to prevent mixing medications that might result in accidental overdose. In relation to the opioid epidemic, it can be used to identify behaviors like doctor shopping and prescription history. PDMPs have been enacted in every state but Missouri, despite support by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Missouri Academy of Family Physicians, Missouri American College of Physicians, Missouri State Medical Association, Missouri Pharmacy Association, and the nation’s most trusted medical organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls these databases one of the most “promising state-level interventions” to improve opioid prescribing and patient care. But year after year, legislative PDMP efforts have been thwarted, making Missouri the lone national holdout.

“People ask me all the time, ‘You’re from Missouri. Why haven’t you all passed a PDMP?’ And the answer I give is that it has not made it through the Senate in a form that’s acceptable to the House,” says Dr. Randall Williams, the director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services. “I’m not pretending to be the expert on legislative intent, but my sense from my four years here is it’s not been one thing; it’s just been different things.”

Republican Representative Holly Rehder has sponsored a PDMP bill in the Missouri legislature for years.

“Over the years, PDMP has become a political football for both sides of the aisle. It doesn’t make sense. Missouri’s lack of a PDMP is a front row seat to politics at its worst,” she says. In 2018, Republican Governor Eric Greitens tried establishing a statewide PDMP via executive order, but the legislature refused to fund it.

A year earlier, the St. Louis County Health Department had launched a voluntary program available to any jurisdiction that wanted to participate. Today, more than 75 jurisdictions out of about 129 jurisdictions (counties plus several city jurisdictions) have opted in. Walmart, Walgreens, and Medicaid also track prescription history. Overall, around 85 percent of Missouri’s population is covered by some form of prescription drug monitoring, but it’s still a patchwork system.

So why not make an end run around the legislature and recruit the remaining counties that include the 15 percent of the population not covered yet? Many jurisdictions are afraid of being sued, Representative Rehder suspects. For example, Newton County officials voted to join the St. Louis County’s voluntary program, but then postponed implementation, planning to await the results of a lawsuit against St. Charles County by United for Missouri, a limited government advocacy group that claimed the program violated privacy. But Newton County officials changed their minds and decided to proceed.

The patchwork system is also far from ideal for healthcare providers like Dr. David Barbe, a family health practitioner with Mercy Clinic in Wright County.

“You can get certain pieces of info from one database and other pieces from PDMP, but that only applies to certain people. If that doesn’t scream at you, ‘we need a coordinated statewide PDMP,’ then nothing will,” says Barbe, who is also the former president of the American Medical Association. “Until we get all of the counties on, all of the pharmacies on, and all of the payers on, it won’t accomplish what we can accomplish for the patients. This is for patient safety, patient care, to identify those that are misusing so you can get them the help they need, and so you can potentially ID those getting prescriptions and diverting them.”

By diverting them, he’s referring to medications that get stolen or distributed to family and friends. A PDMP would help track unusual habits—people seeking multiple refills within a month or visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions.

“The PDMP by itself doesn’t completely solve that but is best at identifying patients getting scripts from more than one provider, and you can use that to infer other things,” Barbe says.

His county, Wright County, has not opted into the St. Louis County PDMP, which means anyone can come there to fill prescriptions at a nonparticipating pharmacy without ever leaving a record of their opioid use patterns.

The current system’s weaknesses are a glaring problem to Jim Marshall, the founder of Cody’s Gift. “It’s not working if you’ve got a county next door that’s not using it,” he says. “It’s why Missouri has been one of the biggest states in prescription doctor shopping. The US Drug Enforcement Agency calls us the ‘pill mill’ of the United States.” Cody’s Gift is a nonprofit organization that primarily works in public schools to educate and prevent substance use disorders by raising awareness about mental health issues and alternative coping skills besides drug use. Marshall’s son, Cody, died in 2011 from an overdose.

Some emergency rooms see opioid-related problems during nearly every shift, from overdoses to drug-seekers. Dr. Howard Jarvis, the medical director of the emergency department of Cox Health in Springfield, says, “I can assure you that there are patients who are well aware of what pharmacies are participating and what pharmacies are not participating. We literally get patients from out of state coming here to get prescriptions filled. It’s an everyday problem. People sometimes tell me they’re getting prescription narcotics, and I look them up and can’t find evidence of it on the St. Louis County PDMP. It’s because they live in a municipality that doesn’t participate.” While Springfield and Greene County are currently enrolled in the St. Louis PDMP, five of its six adjacent counties are not.

PDMP opponents such as Republican Senator Denny Hoskins often question efficacy. “Just look at the data. Obviously, Missouri is the only state that does not have a statewide government prescription drug tracking system, and therefore you’d think that we would be number one in opioid-related deaths. However, we’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. Many of the supporters say the PDMPs will stop doctor shopping. Well, doctor shopping accounts for less than 5 percent of the people illegally obtaining opioids. The real reasons for the opioid crisis is we’ve seen an increase in deaths related to fentanyl. The PDMP has no effect on illicit fentanyl. PDMPs simply don’t work. At best, they focus on 5 percent of the problem and not the other 95 percent. I equate it to sticking a band-aid on a broken ankle and saying, ‘At least we did something.’ ”

Republican Senator Cindy O’Lauglin adds, “For those who despise PDMP, the main argument is the intrusion on personal decisions by outside interests and the state maintaining a database. On the other side, we do understand that doctors and pharmacies would like to know if a patient has been subscribed [sic] opioids before then issuing another prescription.”

While these medical databases are no magic bullet, there is evidence they can affect positive change. One year after New York required prescribers to check the state’s PDMP before issuing prescriptions, doctor shopping dropped by nearly 75 percent. In states like Connecticut and Rhode Island, doctors reported that PDMPs helped identify opioid drug abuse and intervene with patients who needed help. In Ohio, the National Institutes of Health credited the PDMP with reducing opioid-related deaths thanks to a 41 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions after implementation. Florida reduced oxycodone deaths by more than 50 percent after just two years with a PDMP. While encouraging, these numbers still don’t shift political opponents of PDMPs.

“When you get to a public policy discussion or debate, people use data to support whichever position they believe in,” says Dr. Williams, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Any time in medicine we try to prove something, the gold standard is a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial. That’s where you take a group of people and do something, take another group of people just like that group and don’t do it, and look down the road to see if there’s a difference in outcomes. With a PDMP, it’s very hard to find two populations that you can do that for. When you compare two states, you get into confounding variables, and different things might change other than just a PDMP.”

In short, correlation does not always equal causation. “Every year, people testify very much that PDMPs make a difference, and then other people get right up and produce data that says it doesn’t make a difference.” Dr. Williams explains that his department has chosen to support a PDMP based on the number of state medical associations and physicians asking for one. “We want to be responsive to our physicians’ opinions and give them every tool to help them individually with their patients, to help them prevent opioid abuse diversion and addiction and deaths.”

Of course, not every prescription leads to abuse, and plenty of patients responsibly manage pain with prescription opioids. The thought of additional policies and regulations sometimes sparks fears about access and harming the very people opioids are meant to help. Republican Senator Cindy O’Laughlin reports this “is a huge concern expressed by chronic pain patients” within her constituency.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect them at all,” says Jarvis, the Cox Health emergency department medical director. “Most people who require chronic opioids for cancer or other things like that, they’re usually getting those from a single prescriber. They’re not going to multiple places to obtain narcotics.”

Some argue that since PDMPs make prescription medications harder to access, people who abuse pills often turn to heroin or fentanyl, which is cheaper, easier to find, and far deadlier. In fact, Missouri’s recent surge in opioid deaths was largely due to the introduction of inexpensive, highly potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl. These numbers ​​grew from 192 deaths in 2015 to 448 in 2016. In November 2019, more than 20 arrests were made relating to a drug trafficking ring accused of distributing heroin and fentanyl in Springfield. Kris Benecke suspects it may have been this ring who sold the drugs that took her daughter’s life. Would a PDMP take fentanyl off today’s streets? Of course not. But it might deter a future generation’s drug-using habits.

“To stop the problem, you have to limit the number of people who get addicted in the first place,” says Jarvis. “The PDMP is helpful. There’s no question. It’s just a tool. It’s not a panacea.”

Drug monitoring legislation has long been caught in the cogs of the Missouri state government. When initial efforts by Republican Senator Kevin Engler failed in 2012, it was largely due to vehement opposition led by Republican Senator Rob Schaaf, a family doctor who cited privacy concerns and described the proposal as “the heavy hand of government taking away your liberty.”

Even though the US Supreme Court ruled PDMPs constitutional in Whalen vs. Roe (1977) and the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that PDMPs do not inherently violate Fourth Amendment rights as recently as 2019, many Missouri legislators still cited concerns over privacy and voted no.

The current sponsor of the latest series of PDMP bills, Republican Representative Holly Rehder, is still optimistic about the debate’s slow progress. “We’ve really gotten somewhere in the last seven or eight years in regards to the stigma of addiction, but we still have a small handful of people who are just vehemently opposed,” she says.

Further complicating the issue, opponents of PDMPs suggest a link between digital medical databases to the theoretical infringement of Second Amendment arms rights. The concerns aren’t entirely baseless—in 2013, Missouri Highway Patrol handed over a database of concealed weapons permit holders to a federal agent seeking links between disability claims and gun ownership. Even though the agent never actually used the files, according to the highway patrol, the story was used as evidence of database abuse in the hands of big government.

For frustrated doctors on the front lines, tying PDMPs to guns makes no sense. “It’s frightening,” says Jarvis. “There is no connection.”

While concerns over privacy, personal liberty, and even Second Amendment rights may be sincere, at its heart, opposition seems to stem from the long-held conservative penchant for personal responsibility. In the early days of PDMP legislation, Schaaf was widely criticized for saying about drug users, “If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool.”

In the medical community and for families of drug users, addiction is a medical crisis, not a moral failing. As Christa Harmon puts it, “I hate this term, ‘junkies.’ They are someone’s someone, and that matters.” For Harmon, founder and president of Mid-MO Addiction Awareness, desire for legislative action against the opioid epidemic is personal. Her daughter began abusing prescription opioids in high school. By her early 20s, she was seeking heroin in St. Louis. “It was pretty bad. I knew nothing. I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even know people did pills, snorted pills, I was clueless. It hit me like a brick wall.”

That feeling of cluelessness is why Harmon founded the organization. By breaking the stigma of silence around a family member’s drug abuse, she can at least encourage people to speak up and share information. Hers is just one organization out of many across the state that has stepped up to try to address the many layers of the opioid epidemic.

Jim Marshall, the father who lost his son and founded Cody’s gift, has spoken at hundreds of schools and conferences for the last nine years.

“You never know when a kid walks away from an assembly whether they’re going to make better choices or be more sympathetic to people in their families who have these issues,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have to think that one thing about kids that hasn’t changed is that they will listen to people like me who have a real story to tell.” All he can do is try.

“We have to start at the front end of the problem, where they get their drugs to start with,” he says. “Maybe if we shut the front door, we’ll prevent them from ending up as addicts or in jail when they walk out the back door,” he says.

But no one organization has the power or money that the legislature does to affect statewide change, and advocates say a PDMP shouldn’t be politicized. But again and again, it is.

“It’s an electronic medical record. It’s technology. At some point, it became a political banner, and a lot of lives have been harmed by that,” says Representative Rehder. She has been fighting for a PDMP since her first year in office in 2013. It’s an issue close to home. Her mother was addicted to prescription medications. Her stepfather was a dealer. Her sister used. Her cousin died of long-term drug abuse. And for over a decade, her own daughter struggled with drug abuse—an addiction that began with a legal prescription for Lorcet after an injury at age 17.

“I’ve been the bill’s sponsor for the last seven years and have really poured my heart and soul into it,” she says. “As a child growing up in it, as a mom trying to fight it, I’ve got a little more perspective than probably a lot of legislators.”

For years, Rehder’s bills passed the House only to be rejected by the Senate. This year, she collaborated with Republican Senator Tony Luetkemeyer to craft a compromise with the conservative caucus of their party. HB1693 expanded privacy protections by restricting law enforcement access to data, deleted patient data every three years, and most controversially, assigned oversight to a privatized task force instead of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Though imperfect to House Democrats, it was still a PDMP, and in February, it passed 98-56. But once in the Senate, additional provisions to increase fentanyl penalties were added, upsetting the already fragile support from key House Democrats. This dissatisfaction surprised Rehder.

“These increased penalties had already passed on several other bills, so I never thought that this would become a problem,” Rehder recalls.

It was. Many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, felt that they had made significant compromises to pass a PDMP that Republicans could support, but that the fentanyl penalty provisions were just too much. In a May 11 Facebook post, Democratic Representative Peter Merideth told constituents he’d already been on the fence with the initial negotiations, but that he’d opposed the language of the proposed fentanyl laws all year. “It would take an addict that possesses a substance that has been laced with any traceable amount of fentanyl (whether they knew it or not) and make them subject to a trafficking felony with a penalty equivalent to that of first-degree murder. Amazing that even in a bill that’s supposed to be about trying to help prevent addiction early, they can’t help but add massive over-criminalization of drugs at the same time.”

Sensing an opportunity to advance other, unrelated legislation, Democrats sent the bill back to committee for review. At best, it was a political maneuver. The plan backfired. The Senate was furious with what they referred to as “House shenanigans” and filibustered, killing the bill on the floor. The harsher penalties were added to another bill that was passed and signed into law anyway, but still no PDMP.

“We just ran out of time,” Rehder says. Her term limits are up in the House, although she’s running for a Senate seat in the November election. “It’s awful. It’s politics. It was just one thing after another. It was being used as a political football, and they killed it. It was just sad. Sad for the people of Missouri and for the families that have struggled with trying to fight this awful epidemic.”

It would be nice if all it took was a big burst of will power to kick an opioid addiction. But that’s just not how it works. Thanks to the history of addiction in her own family, Rehder understands that intimately. “With my DNA, it takes me one to three days to become addicted to something. My husband has no drug addictions in his family line, and he can take an opioid for a week after an injury and stop it immediately without any problems.”

Her point is everyone is different. At the height of dependency, addicts can rarely advocate for themselves. Too often, it’s the parents left behind to pick up the pieces. Some become activists, like Jim Marshall and Christa Harmon. Many just steel themselves and go on, coping with their grief in private silence.

In Camden County, Kris Benecke, who lost her son and daughter to drug overdoses and is now raising her 9-year-old grandson, had never even heard of prescription drug monitoring programs until this year, but she supports the concept now. Her county is not enrolled, although its two Republican representatives both voted in favor of HB1693. Her son died from a heroin overdose at age 19, but his drug use started in high school, when a friend shared prescription opioids stolen from his father’s medicine cabinet.

“If something like a PDMP had been in place, maybe there would’ve been a totally different outcome,” Benecke says. Maybe a doctor would have noticed a prescription was being refilled too soon.

Maybe.

By Rose Hansen | Missouri Life Magazine | missourilife.com

DEA Announces the Largest Domestic Seizure of Methamphetamine in DEA History

At a press conference today, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea and Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner announced the seizure of 893 pounds of cocaine, 13 pounds of heroin, and 2,224 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, which is the largest domestic seizure of crystal methamphetamine in DEA history.

In June 2020, the Los Angeles Field Division, Southwest Border Group 2, began investigating a large-scale drug trafficking organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel involved in the transportation and delivery of large quantities of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. During the course of the investigation, agents identified a Southern California-based narcotics courier/stash house manager along with multiple locations and vehicles associated with the courier and the DTO.

On October 2, 2020, through investigative means, agents and Fontana Police Department investigators established surveillance on the courier’s residence. During surveillance, Fontana Police Department investigators observed the target and a secondary associate load two duffle bags into a vehicle and leave the location. The courier target and the associate ultimately met with a third associate at a Sam’s Club parking lot in the city of Moreno Valley where they unloaded and delivered the two duffle bags to the third associate. During that time, investigators detained the courier target and the two other associates in the parking lot for questioning and they were later released.

Based upon the investigation and locations previously identified, agents authored state search warrants for multiple locations, including the courier target’s residence and a narcotics stash house within the city of Perris. During a search of the courier’s residence, agents located approximately 25 duffle bags within the garage of the residence containing approximately 406 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of heroin, and 650 pounds of crystal methamphetamine.

Additionally, during a search of the narcotics stash house in Perris, agents located approximately 1,600 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. This is an ongoing investigation.

“The largest DEA domestic seizure of methamphetamine in history is a significant blow to the cartels, but more importantly it is a gigantic victory for communities throughout Southern California and the United States who have had to deal with the torrent of methamphetamine coming into their neighborhoods,” said Acting Administrator Shea. “We continue to work with our state and local partners to attack drug trafficking at all levels and this seizure sends a clear message that we mean business.”

“Los Angeles is the major transshipment hub for Mexican cartels trafficking illicit drugs across our southwest border,” said Special Agent in Charge Bodner. “Successful seizures like these save lives and reduce the exploitation and victimization of our local communities.”

“The significant seizures announced today thwarted drug traffickers’ plans to profit from these dangerous drugs that cause incredible harm to our communities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department is committed to making our neighborhoods safer by aggressively disrupting drug cartel operations in the United States.”

Participating law enforcement partners include the Southwest Border Group 2 – including the South Gate Police Department, Simi Valley Police Department, Huntington Park Police Department, Glendora Police Department, Downey Police Department, El Monte Police Department, Irwindale Police Department, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – and the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.