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Idaho State Police concerned about increasing fentanyl overdoses

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Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury speaks about fentanyl drug overdoses in his city over the past year at a press conference on Wednesday (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun).

Officials held roundtable discussion with governor about border security


Across the state, Idaho State Police are concerned about the availability and use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, which they say is becoming easier to manufacture and distribute and is leading to more overdose deaths.

Seven law enforcement officials from around the state, including the chief of police in Twin Falls and the Bannock County sheriff, joined a roundtable with Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday to discuss the issue and its connection to the United States’ border with Mexico. According to the most recent Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report, meth and fentanyl are primarily imported to the United States from Mexico, and many of the drug trafficking organizations in Oregon and Idaho originate from Mexico or California. Of the 28 international drug trafficking organizations investigated by the task forces in 2020, 24 were identified as originating in Mexico.

Little said those facts reinforce his decision to send a team of five Idaho State Police troopers to Arizona’s border with Mexico to assist with drug trafficking interventions. The troopers were sent as additional personnel for Arizona law enforcement, and also as an educational trip to bring new enforcement techniques and technology back to Idaho.

Capt. John Kempf of Idaho State Police District 1 in Coeur d’Alene spoke at a press conference held after the roundtable meeting at the state police headquarters in Meridian. Kempf said his troopers have seen an uptick in overdose deaths in north Idaho related directly to fentanyl.

“Most recently we had the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy named Mike Stabile,” Kempf said. “He was one of a cluster of overdose deaths we’ve tied to fentanyl from a pill that’s mocked up to look like a regular oxycodone pill.”

Kempf said this is a particularly dangerous trend because fentanyl is a low cost, easily produced drug that is also easy to smuggle.

“It’s very, very potent per gram, it is much more potent than black tar heroin was or is, and you essentially get more bang for your buck when you’re talking about addicts,” he said.

Overall, Idaho State Police data showed drug and narcotics offenses were down nearly 8.2% in 2020 across Idaho, but according to reporting from the Spokesman-Review in Washington, there were five fentanyl-related deaths in Kootenai County over the course of one week in May.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths in Idaho increased nearly 7% between December 2019 and December 2020, and that number is considered underreported because of incomplete data.

Twin Falls Chief of Police Craig Kingsbury said the trend is present in his area of the state as well.

“I have served in law enforcement in this state for over 31 years. The drug epidemic that we are seeing right now is unlike anything that I have ever seen. Fentanyl is truly taking over our state with some really negative consequences,” Kingsbury said. “… The men and women of the Twin Falls Police Department have administered NARCAN more than 30 times in the last 12 months.”

NARCAN is a nasal spray used in an opioid overdose emergency that can sometimes, but not always, save a person’s life. Kingsbury said some residents have needed to be saved with NARCAN more than once.

Little said weak security at the border of the United States and Mexico exacerbates the issue.

“I was talking to a rancher last week that has property along the border, and they said a vast majority of people coming across … are there for one reason, and that’s smuggling fentanyl and meth,” Little said.